With information accessible 24/7 online, networking has become one of the primary reasons people choose to attend your conference.
The opportunity to connect face-to-face is too critical to be happenstance.
Creating Conference Connections That Matter
Conference attendees want dedicated time that they can connect with individuals to share stories, insight and experiences.
Speed networking is not enough. People want to connect on a deeper level than spending five minutes with an individual and then moving on to the next person. It’s about more than collecting business cards and contact information.
Early-career professionals want to meet seasoned colleagues who can help them learn the ropes. Experienced professionals desire to tap and amplify their existing network. Suppliers want conversations that will accelerate deal making. Today, everyone turns to events to make connections with like-minded people who will share knowledge, opportunities and ideas that will help them do their job faster, better and easier.
Creating Conference Connexity
Organizations that host conferences are in a unique position to deliver two things that attendees crave and value most — connection and community. The hi-tech industry coined the word “connexity” to refer to the merging of these two concepts. In your conference-experience design, you should be intentional about fostering community and creating connections, rather than adding connexity to the meeting as an afterthought.
Our pursuit of individualism and the emergence of virtual teams and telecommuting have left us hungry for human connection, which can’t quite be satisfied through digital or off-line interactions. When an attendee meets a person in the buffet line or seated next to them in a session who shares some know-how intelligence that is exactly why s/he came to the conference — that’s magic.
Your conference should be designed so that these serendipitous moments happen more frequently. What if you could guarantee connexity for all attendees? If you positioned your conference as the gathering place for your global village and intentionally created “watering holes” where your attendees shared best practices and new ideas?
Three Ways To Pump Up Connexity At Your Next Conference
Here are three easy ways to pump up connexity at your next conference.
1. Make it easy to find like-minded individuals.
Instead of creating conference tracks by job function, SIG, industry, or specialty, consider a track methodology around significant problems to solve or opportunities to seize. Like-minded is defined by your attendees’ pressing priorities, not necessarily by the demographics that you collect or the committees that you created years ago.
2. Bring networking into the session rooms.
Rather than cramming every concurrent session with end-to-end lectures, panels and Q&A, instruct and coach your presenters to incorporate at least three small-group discussions or networking activities into the session design and set up the room accordingly. Crescent rounds work well for programs that alternate between speaker presentations and table talk. Even if you need to maximize seating at every session, put the networking-friendly seating up front and use the back 25 percent of the room for theater seating.
3. Pay special attention to two groups.
Make igniting connexity the No. 1 priority. Involve as many veterans, staff and volunteer leaders as possible. For those participants who are attending for the first time and/or are the only registrants attending from their organization, develop a plan to reach out to them shortly before the conference to offer assistance with their connexity.
What are some other tips for creating conference connexity? What have you seen done successfully to inspire more networking and community at conferences?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2013.