Networking events: with added value and matchmaking to a successful congressSocialising, swapping ideas and supporting each other, as well as being an inspiration for and benefiting from another – all this is networking. And it takes place wherever people meet. Basically, we network all the time, privately and professionally, whenever we get into conversation with each other. So why do we need networking events? Quite simple: to bring together what belongs together and to make business-oriented matchmaking effective. And that is exactly what makes a congress the ideal networking format. As the people who participate in a congress are already close to each other thematically, the possibility of matchmaking increases. Guests become potential partners and with the right moves your congress becomes the ideal networking event. One that will be remembered and pay off – in terms of fresh impulses, shared knowledge or concrete cooperation. We show you how to adopt the successful concept for your congress and plan a networking event in 10 steps.
10 steps from congress to networking event
In order to make your congress a networking event with potential for success, it must fulfil a number of criteria. So, before implementation, it’s a case of
brainstorming, defining, planning and organising.
1. Define goal, added value and format of your eventFirst and foremost, it is important to sound out your own course: What is the specific goal of the event? What added value should it offer you as an event planner, but also the participants? What could it look like in order to convey the goal and added value in the best possible way? Only those who figure out what they want their future event to be like can steer the ship in the desired direction, check that it stays on course, and at the end also track whether the goal has been achieved. Good goal planning also helps to give the event structure and depth and to create a coherent whole. And this already starts with the choice of the event format. A congress is particularly suitable as a networking event if …
- you want to establish a sector-specific network in which different players can position themselves and potential partners can get to know each other.
- you want to offer a platform where participants can establish new business relationships and expand existing ones.
- you want to create a framework event to explore the current state, emerge trends and a conceivable future of the sector together with numerous participants.
- you want to bring science, economy and investors together and focus on innovation and progress.
2. Determine target group and marketing strategyIf you want the participants of your congress to network, you first need them to talk – and have something to tell each other. A certain overlap in the form of common interests or a similar personal, professional, or structural background provides a safe framework and enables a smooth introduction. At the same time, anonymousness and diversity increase the chances of varied viewpoints, exciting insights, and a constructive, critical exchange. Especially for larger congresses, marketing measures are an indispensable part of the preparation. After all, for the event to gather speed, you need to liven things up. The target group determines which advertising channels are best suited for your event. Everything is possible, from digital business networks and forums to trade journals and posters in suitable places in public spaces.
3. Find the right location
The location for your networking event should fulfil three criteria above all:
- a feel-good atmosphere and infrastructure for a positive all-round experience
- good traffic connections for stress-free travel
- an attractive, central location
Even more than with other event formats, networking events focus on the feel-good factor. To make sure that your participants can open up, you need an atmosphere that invites them to linger and chat. Avoid narrow corridors and poorly ventilated rooms and go for a place that makes natural encounters inevitable but still offers space to withdraw instead. A good connection between the individual halls and rooms fuels intensive and unfiltered conversations, while an exhibition area that ties in with the congress provides the relevant talking points and ensures variety and interaction. Good traffic connections with on-site parking, proximity to the motorway and, above all, accessibility by bus and train facilitate arrival and departure and ensure a stress-free start to the event experience. A central location, on the other hand, is important in order to directly intensify the contacts in the evening – whether during a delicious dinner to round off the event or informally and casually over a beer in the pub around the corner.
Flexible grounds, central location, Bremen charm
We at CONGRESS BREMEN are right in the middle of it all: In the heart of the Hanseatic city of Bremen and in the immediate vicinity of the railway station and motorway, a site awaits you that has the right premises and structures for every event.
4. Participant managementMany event planners still massively underestimate the involvement of guests before, during and after their participation in the event. Good participant management can determine whether the event is a success or not. The first step is to invite potential participants, including save-the-date messages. In the further course, the guests receive support with registration and travel planning, are continuously provided with the latest information and are warmly welcomed and looked after on site. But even after the event, participant management, if it is good, does not stop: This is where honest feedback is needed to give you, the organiser, an idea of how the planning and implementation went from the participants’ point of view. After all, this forms the basis for a meaningful analysis and classification of the event’s success. As you can see: It adds up to quite a lot. Professional event or congress management tools, but also cooperation with event agencies or PCOs (Professional Congress Organisers) can provide relief. Investing a little more time, effort, and resources here can be quite worth it – because where people feel well looked after and cared for, they also like to come (back).
5. Plan content with added valueA full house and a good mood? That’s half the battle. However, the added value offered is also crucial for turning a congress into a successful networking event. This is what shapes the memory and determines the lasting impression of an event. In order to create added value, you need content that picks up the participants, keeps them interested and inspires them in the long term. In short: You need information and emotions. Whether through keynote speakers, product presentations, conferences, pitches or panel discussions – where there is an increase in knowledge, there is also added value. Another way to make things memorable is to create concrete experiences. That’s why it can be worthwhile to convey experiences as well as knowledge – for example in the form of a workshop with a thematic focus or quite freely while cooking or mixing cocktails. Exciting narratives and personal stories can also reach the emotional level – and thus create added value.
6. Involve networking in a targeted and playful wayIf you want to be on the safe side, you can go one step further and integrate networking itself into the event management in a structured and organised way. This makes sense especially if the event is taking place in this form for the first time for organisers and participants. Here are two ideas on how you can playfully integrate networking into your event:
- Speed networking: At a long table, pairs of two get together for short conversations. After one minute – other intervals are also possible, of course – the left side of the table moves up one place at a time. In this way, the conversation partners change constantly, and you get to know as many people as possible in the shortest possible time.
- Walking and talking: To bring a breath of fresh air into the game, conversations can be combined with outdoor exercise. The interlocutors can be thrown together in advance, either at random or specifically, or they can get together on their own initiative. Introductory questions or topics are also possible, but not a must. Tip:To bring a breath of fresh air into the game, conversations can be combined with outdoor exercise. The interlocutors can be thrown together in advance, either at random or specifically, or they can get together on their own initiative. Introductory questions or topics are also possible, but not a must.
7. Give structure to the congressFor your congress to be a well-rounded affair, the balance must be right. In contrast to pure networking events such as after-work parties, the focus at congresses is on the professional level – networking aspirations or not. Keep this in mind when determining the mix of professional and interpersonal elements. Playful components, experiences, and other measures from the category “meet and match” have above all an icebreaking and refreshing character. They are therefore suitable, for example, as a starter in the morning, in between to mix and loosen things up, or in the evening to round things off. Nevertheless, there should also be room for spontaneous discussions. Planned networking elements should therefore be firmly integrated into the agenda – just like expert lectures and panel discussions. In this way, the breaks remain untouched and can be organised by the participants themselves. Be it to let the absorbed contents sink in, to dive into interesting conversations or to walk around the exhibition stands. Finally, it is important that your guests can also understand the structure of the congress. A good moderator acts as a guiding hand through the programme and creates trust and community with competence, transparency and with a twinkle in his eye.
8. Matchmaking before, during and after the event
A lively atmosphere, interesting people, profound conversations – all well and good. But it’s even better if you get something out of it for a long time. Although a nice memory is important, it is hardly enough to measure the success of an event. For that, you need data. Contact data, to be precise.Whether and with whom the participants exchange their contact data, in the form of business cards, telephone numbers or profiles in digital business networks, is of course up to them. But sometimes they need a nudge in the right direction. As the host, you can actively support your guests in exchanging contact details – for example, through business card walls or scattered notices. This way, you make sure that good conversations do not end abruptly in case of doubt, but are merely postponed, and lay the foundation stone of a lasting network.
If you want to give participants the opportunity to find out about each other or even network with each other in advance, you can shift matchmaking from the real world to online platforms – and announce the event on social media or specific business networks, for example. Keyword: networking event marketing. A dedicated event hashtag, for example, gives invited guests the opportunity to become aware of each other even before the event is about to start. A digital registration can also be easily integrated into the invitation. Let nothing stand in the way of good and sustainable matchmaking.
9. Breaking new ground: hybrid networking eventsFor those who want to take the combination of live and digital even further, various doors are open in the context of networking events. Especially in companies or sectors that are internationally active, hybrid networking events can be a good alternative for networking potential partners from all over the world – or for integrating speakers who would not have been present at a purely face-to-face event. What do you need for a hybrid networking event? At least Wi-Fi, the necessary hardware and ideally separate rooms or areas, so-called hybrid networking areas. And of course participants on both sides – online and offline. But technology alone does not make for a successful event. Implementing a networking event as a hybrid event also requires a lot of creativity, foresight and organisational talent – and can thus become a balancing act. The solution for keeping an overview in the digital jungle: experienced partners, PCOs and digital aids such as apps that help you with congress and networking event management. The CONGRESS BREMEN team will be happy to support you!
10. Be there with passionWe are convinced that professional know-how alone does not make a congress a successful networking event. It is much more the mixture that makes it: expertise and experience, competence and cooperation, knowledge and networking. So there really is something for everyone – input for one, a nice memory for another and perhaps a business partnership for the next, from which new projects arise after the congress visit. All this can only be reconciled if you, the host, see the event as a project, approach it with passion and go beyond yourself. If you are a networker, event planner, participant manager, moderator, discussion partner and human being all in one, you need a good plan, a level head and a committed team in the background. Being a host also means being able to hand over tasks in order to keep it rolling. And if a small misadventure does happen, it doesn’t have to detract from the success of the event: good communication helps and learnings enable self-optimisation.
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