Kim just left her club's spring networking event. Instead of feeling excited and alive, she feels flat.
"What went wrong?," she wonders. "The meeting room was cozy. The meeting itself well-organized. Food was great."
Then it hits her. Her cousin Theresa's wedding last summer! Kim had the same feeling then.
At the wedding reception, Kim was seated with Theresa's cousins, Josh and Tim, and their wives, from the other side of the family. It was a l-o-o-n-n-n-g, excruciating hour of vapid small talk. Even the delicious meal couldn't make up for the incredibly awkward, meaningless chatter. Kim still winces when she thinks back to the reception that happened 9 months ago.
"Yup, that's it." Kim realizes. That's went wrong. All conversations at tonight's event felt forced. The format a bit too formal, traditional. Kim spent 2 hours fighting through strained chit-chat, not making any real connections.
Sound familiar? As an event organizer, it's important you take steps to make sure those in attendance are comfortable to mingle, comfortable to connect, and have fun doing so. The good thing is it doesn't take too much effort to make a meaningful difference -- and make the meeting memorable and effective.
Here are some simple ways to turn drab networking events into unforgettable fun.
A Twist on Ice Breakers
We're all familiar with ice breakers -- a way to get your attendees talking and learning about one another. I have yet, though, to meet a person that loves the traditional form of ice breakers. You know the one:You go around the room, introduce yourself, your role, and your goals. Why not revamp the old-school ice breaker to make it more fun, and less stressful?
Here are some ideas:
1. Badge Breakers
Before your networking meeting, pull your event registration data. Create sub-groups based on interests. Say you have a group of people that enjoy reading. Or a subset of attendees that enjoy rock climbing.
Color-code the badges with ribbons to denote which subgroup the attendees belong to. When attendees arrive, give them their badges. Once everyone is there and the meeting begins, explain the rules: pair up with like-colored badges and try to determine what you all have in common (besides being a part of your organization).
This activity gets your groups working together and discussing what they enjoy, rather than putting members through the obligatory, nerve-racking, and many times boring, usual ice breaker activity.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Not the kind you're used to where you're looking for objects or landmarks. This scavenger hunt involves the people in the meeting room.
Give your members a list of members' names in a column along the left side of a sheet of paper and a column of interests that they need to match up on the right side of the paper. Example: Find the person that loves baseball. Find the person that loves hiking.
This exercise gets everyone in the room moving and talking to one another. The person that gets all the matches first wins a small prize. The prize for the others? They learn a little something about every member through a quick, fun, interactive exercise.
3. Whiteboard/Chalkboard Display
Have a white board or chalkboard in your meeting room? Use it! Get attendees to write down their name and a goal, or their name and their most favorite food, pastime activity, color, whatever. Members can gather around the display and talk about each other's interests.
Don't have a chalkboard or whiteboard? Bring an iPad or tablet and pass it around the room. Have people gather to review everyone's answers. Your attendees are bound to connect on mutual interests and share stories with one another, which fosters communication and connection and can certainly facilitate member engagement and a sense of belonging.
1. When is your next networking event? A month from now? Next week? Even if you're short on time, you can easily add one of the ice breaker twists to your agenda. Pick one and do it!
2. Include a question about your new activity in your post-event survey or ask the open-ended question what attendees liked best about your event. There's a good chance they'll remember your fun new twist on ice breakers.
Have your own fun twist on ice breakers? Share it below.
Kristen Campbell is the Brand Manager at 123Signup. She is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing all marketing initiatives and programs for 123Signup.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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