Event Design

Hosting a Small Gathering? Use These Four Tips to Spark Conversations Amongst Attendees

Eventually Learning Team

“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness, what you stand for.”—Christine Comaford-Lynch.

With the pandemic-induced gap by virtual conversations and virtual events, attendees have taken a step back when it comes to in-person event networking. Even the usually verbose attendee has stepped into the shoes of a lone wolf! This phenomenon has created a need for companies like JabberYak that enable effective multi-way communication amongst attendees by connecting people with similar interests!

So, if you are planning to host an intimate event soon, use these tips to spark thoughtful and engaging conversations amongst your audience.

Have the Right Mix of Audiences From Different Industries

We all know how  critical finding an ‘event objective’ is! When you have finalized the purpose of your event, defining the guest list is a tough row to hoe. The crux of the matter is to filter attendees from different industries while finding threads of similarities amongst the lot. Attendees find it easy to network with people who have same business interests. So, when it comes to curating a guest list, you have to consider the theme of the event and the audience's demographics. Even a minute difference in the guest selection can imbalance the overall event experience. For example, you might have come across the 'Who Should Attend' section while registering for an event. Adding that information is an intelligent tactic as it precisely describes the kind of audience an organizer is expecting. Even MozCon uses taglines like 'Summer Camp for Marketers', which clearly indicates that all audiences working in marketing or interested in learning can sign up for the event.

Do You Really Need a Vast Headcount for Your Event?

For an event organizer, if attendees are slow to materialize after opening registrations, it becomes a factor for anxiety as it directly impacts the revenue. However, Nicole Walker, Arinex Managing Director, wrote in a recent article that "It's time to get comfortable with late registrations!"

The pandemic has caused behavioral changes in delegates and attendees alike. They fear committing too early for an event, hence a lesser urgency to click on 'Register now.' Walker even analyzed 55 events in November 2021 to realize that there were only 1,387 registrations for in-person events, 8,539 registrations for virtual events and 1,300 registrations for hybrid events. So, what can you do to organize engaging events and spark conversations that 'MATTER'? The answer is simple – you go, Niche!

If you truly wish to deliver a unique experience, then you have to:

  1. Opt for a smaller setting
  2. Make it an ‘Invitation-only’ event
  3. Focus on key industry topics

Exclusive B2B networking dinners are also becoming an increasingly popular category in the events ecosystem. Companies like Inspired Business Media, Newport, UK, specialize in hosting intimate B2B dinners across luxury hotels in London. The benefits of hosting these luxury networking events are:

  • Immense deal-making potential
  • Tailored discussions aligned with the latest trends
  • A relaxed environment to naturalize conversations
  • Easily to host at any hotspot business location across the world

In addition, after the pandemic, attendees will feel comfortable in more close-knit settings as it promotes safety, easy conversations and business networking. Even introverts can thrive at your B2B networking dinners!

How Are Your Guests Seated at the Event?

Are your attendees picking seats on a first-come-first-serve basis? If yes, you need to redefine your seating charts strategically to initiate networking.

You have to consider the different personalities visiting the event for event seating. For example, imagine you are visualizing an event for a marketing company whose purpose is to meet luxury advertisers. In that case, you have to ensure marketers are carefully surrounded by advertisers left and right to promote cross-border and diverse conversations. The key is to make Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) of the attendees and share them with your prospects to know their preference on 'Who sits Where.'

However, having a pre-decided seating chart can also lead to favoritism or competition. So, unless you want a speaker to share a standard message across the table, allow guests to choose their seats. Often a banquet-style seating works best for networking dinners where round tables are spread out evenly to accommodate 8-12 people per table. Even Cabaret-style seating can work for cocktail networking sessions where presentations or performances are visible to the attendees.

Fun Fact: Physically sitting next to someone can make you feel more emotionally connected to them. (Research by Cornell)

Curate Conversation-Starting Décor

When it comes to event décor, there is only one piece of advice – Go Creative! Even everyday activities like drinking water or coffee can be made fun with thought-provoking décor ideas in an intimate setting. For instance, you can use different colored cups to play a game with the attendees. Red color could indicate you want to start a conversation, green could indicate you wish to exchange ideas, blue could indicate you want to listen to new opinions, and pink could indicate you wish to partner for business. Similarly, while setting the table for lunch/dinner, you can use table mats for exciting activities. For example, ThinkFun, a toy and boardgames company based in the US,  asked its customers to fold the mats and solve a puzzle. Actions like these make for good décor and, at the same time, can put attendees at ease to spark engaging conversations with others.

Another vital highlight to remember while planning an event design for an intimate networking gathering is not to use big centerpieces that hinder audiences’ field of vision. For example, while setting up a table, ensure that the seating is not overcrowded. Set an overall event theme and establish conversation pieces, banners, lights and backgrounds that relay your brand messaging and the event's objective. Try incorporating décor elements and your event’s theme into all your attendee touchpoints like invitations, networking, personalization and lunch/dinner.

Wrapping Up

At today's events, attendees are simply looking to foster meaningful relationships with stakeholders. But, the task of face-to-face networking is challenging for some attendees due to being behind a computer screen excessively since a long time. As an event organizer, you can –

  • Filter your guest list by including people with similar interests
  • Host small gatherings/dinners
  • Use strategic seating patterns to facilitate conversations
  • Instill décor that can put attendees at ease and spark productivity
Make sure your events are where attendees strike meaningful conversations and partnerships to propel disruption, innovation and transformation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can attendees network over dinner?

Practical tips that help attendees network over dinner are:

  • Have a clear business or professional objective in mind
  • Prepare good conversations starters
  • Introduce yourself to someone who has achieved better business results in your domain
  • Ask your peers questions about their professional life and work
  • Talk about what you want, but make sure the pitch is mutually beneficial
  • End conversations on a positive note

What are the ideal venue types for networking dinners?

The ideal venue ideas for hosting a networking dinner are:

  • Banquet halls
  • Rooftops
  • Open lawns
  • Bars
  • Luxury restaurants/resorts

What are some conversation starters to use over a B2B dinner event?

Here are some one liners that can help you initiate conversations at business dinners:

Introduce yourself:

  • I don’t think we’ve met before…I’m XYZ!
  • Nice to meet you. I’m XYZ

Reconnecting with someone:

  • John? Hi, it’s XYZ. How have you been?
  • Susan? Fancy meeting you here. What are the chances?

Starting a conversation (meeting in person):

  • You must be John! It’s nice to meet you at last.
  • Ah, Susan! It’s great to meet you in person.

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