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3 Ways to Get Guests Talking at Networking Events

Networking-Games-Business-EventsYou’re hosting the mixer to end all mixers. Everything is perfect—the venue, the weather, and you’ve even managed to sell out. But the attendees are standing on opposite sides of the wall with their faces buried in their phones.

No one is talking. It’s more awkward than a jr. high dance.

The success of industry events, conferences, mixers, and meet-and-greets depends on your guests making connections. If they don’t feel like they made new contacts or added to their circle of colleagues, they aren’t likely to return next year.

No pressure.


1. Kick Off Networking Before the Event

Meeting online is easier than in-person networking. Encourage digital interaction before the event.

Have guests register, even if it’s a free event on Brown Paper Tickets. That way, you can estimate attendance, email updates, and guests can have discussions right on the event page.

Make a hashtag and promote it on your event page or if you’re having a larger conference, create a Facebook group. Write fun polls to engage attendees, such as ‘would you rather have unlimited tacos or popsicles at the after party?’

Guests can virtually meet and then do things like form carpools, give tips, or arrange post-event happy hours.

2.  Give ’em Something to Talk About

Be silly, be creative, just don’t be boring. Look for opportunities with your nametags, event signage, booth swag to show off personality and get your attendees talking.

Here’s a swag wheel Brown Paper Tickets made for a booth at DragCon. It captured attention, drew people in, and made a fantastic ice breaker.

For smaller networking events, give space on the nametags for attendees to write something memorable about themselves. This gives shy people an easy conversation starter and a way to remember who they just met.


Name: Amanda H.
Spirit Animal: Tree Kangaroo

Name: Ron S.
Favorite food: Breakfast meat (any)

Name: Leslie K.
Most likely to: Scrapbook this networking event

2. Optimize the Venue for Chitchat

Set up the venue space in a way that facilitates chitchat. Cocktail-style seating is optimal for the standard meet and greet, because it allows your guests to move about the space freely and is less intimidating to wallflowers than other seating arrangements.

Here’s a standard floor plan for a low-key mixer:


3. Networking Games

Speed networking
Speed networking is modeled after speed dating—the object is to meet as many people as you can in a short time. Each participant gets a specific amount of time to introduce themselves, which varies depending on the size of the group.

The standard is 3 minutes for each attendee, so if you had 10 attendees, allot 30 minutes to speed networking.

Penny for Your Thought
This one works well for smaller groups. Give attendees pennies (no more than 15 years old) and ask each person to share something that happened to them in that year. Kick it off with something lighthearted and amusing or a career-related anecdote, so it doesn’t get too serious.

Business Card Challenge
Who doesn’t love a challenge? Ask your attendees to collect as many business cards as they can. It’s the perfect challenge for big groups and you can add stipulations to ramp up the fun—such as, you can only exchange cards after a minute of talking.

Bonus tip: go to a few networking and business events before you plan one yourself. Are people talking to each other or awkwardly texting? Take notes on what works and what does not.

Event Tips >

5 Ways to Rock Booth Marketing at Festivals

BPT_Blog_TradeShowSummer is creeping up again, that glorious time of vacation, tanning or sunscreen (if you’re a redhead like myself) and of course, festivals. For small businesses, festivals provide a huge opportunity to reach new customers. All you need is a booth, some swag and a smile.

But with so many businesses involved in a festival, you have to be on top of your game to get noticed. Here are some things to consider when creating your outreach plan:

1. Location
Where is the action? Where is the food? That is where the people will be and that is where you should center your booth. If you cannot control your booth location, figure out how to bring people to you. Are you surrounded by other businesses? Are you far from the main action? Consider forming a “street team” to hand out free stickers or flyers alerting festival-goers of where you are and what you do. This is an excellent way to spread the word about what you do and at least to get your name out, just make sure that they are as enthusiastic about your brand as you are.

2. Giveaways: Festival Necessities
At music festivals, people hand me free ice water, sunglasses or sometimes sell cheap hats and sunscreen. These essential items for sun protection double as a wonderful way to build brand awareness. If you aren’t getting a lot of foot traffic to your booth, send a street team out to inform the crowd that your booth is handing out free sunglasses. Bring people to your products.

3. Differentiate Yourself
Along with giveaways and picking a prime location, you need to stand out from all the other businesses there. Give the crowd an experience that makes them curious to know more about your business. Obviously, unique products help. Going to Warped Tour, I found the tents selling Rasta hats memorable, although I had no desire to buy one. Bigger tents stole my attention too, because they took up so much space. Then again, they would be nothing without unique products. Visuals are important and if appropriate, lights and physical displays or entertainment, like dancing, will attract festival-goers.

4. Vibrant Colors
From personal experience and preference, I would stay away from black and gray. Stick out with bright colors. Make your display pleasing to the eye to grab attention among all the competitors around you. Lights and decorations, as mentioned above, offer other opportunities to stand out.

5. Be Good Company
Do not expect people to come back if you’re not providing them with something of value. Steps one through four are meant to get some foot traffic to your booth, but the quality of your product is what will keep them around for refreshments.

All of the above will help, but to make your festival experience a success and get invited back next year, you need to be a quality company with meaningful products and excellent service.

Our guest poster Robert Lanterman is a writer and musician out of Boise, ID. When he’s not doing either of those things, he’s probably eating pizza, watching Netflix or attempting to run a record label out of his bedroom.

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