Think about who connected you to your current job?
I’m willing to bet it was a weak connection; someone you just met, didn’t know very well or hadn’t talked to in years.
The facts are that when it comes to looking for information, opportunities and connections, weaker connections are more helpful than our strongest ones.
Why Weak Ties Are More Helpful
Why are weak ties more helpful?
Because typically our strong ties (close friends and family) are living and working in the same spaces, and exposed to the same information and opportunities. It’s when we meet new people or get reacquainted with someone that we haven’t seen in a while that we hear new options and perspectives. It’s when we step out of the familiar into the unfamiliar that’s where we find new opportunities.
Conferences offer a unique opportunity for attendees to connect to people outside of their immediate sphere. This increases their exposure to new perspectives, resources and people. They also create opportunities to build connexity.
Your attendees need weak ties to increase their access and influence as well as grow their network. However, they don’t instinctively seek out weak ties. Instead, they typically choose to sit with their close friends and colleagues that they know well.
The more you can offer opportunities for them to step out of their immediate sphere of influence, the more they will perceive your meeting as valuable. The reality is that it’s your job to help them connect with those second and third degree separations.
Conference Ideas To Leverage Weak Ties
We’re not talking about speed networking sessions as that doesn’t foster real connections. Instead, here are some ideas to help your attendees get what they really need to grow their network.
1. Enlist An Army of Connectors
These are the influencers, decision-makers and leaders of your organization who are well connected and can help broker new connections. Have them stand as greeters at room entrances and in lobby areas to be on the lookout for opportunities to connect people.
2. Create A Sponsor/Protégé Program.
Sponsors are mentors on steroids. Match up attendees (especially first-timers) with loyal attendees and high influencers who have diverse networks. These people can “open doors” and facilitate new connections for your attendees.
3. Utilize Interactive Speakers
Secure speakers that design audience exercises that foster weak ties and avoid strong ties. (Example, the speaker asks the audience to find someone in the room they don’t know and introduce their self. Then they ask them to sit together for the remainder of the presentation.)
Train your presenters on the value of peer-to-peer learning and the educational benefits of networking. Use creative room sets and furniture that encourages peer interaction.
4. Be Proactive With Your Registration Process
Find ways to connect attendees during registration who don’t know each other and have similar jobs or work in the same industry. This delivers immediate value before they arrive.
5. Educate Your Attendees In Advance
Communicate and educate often and early on the strength of weak ties. Let your attendees know how you’re going to help facilitate these serendipitous connections so they will increase their ROI.
Delivering Networking Value
When you design meeting space and intentionally create time in the agenda for these important connections to occur, you will be delivering enormous networking value for your attendees.
Why do you think it’s become so important for attendees to make face to face connections? Why has networking become a necessary deliverable for successful meetings?