Networking is key to the success of conferences. In fact, it’s one of the key reasons for them. Creating the right environment and set up for networking is an essential aspect to planning a successful conference.

However, no two conferences are the same. The industry and the profiles of the attendees will determine what kind of networking arrangement is best. So too will the size, timing and length of the conference, and the reason for the conference.

  • Is it a night-time event, a day-time event or a weekend event? Are attendees staying overnight, or driving home after the conference?
  • Would networking be better in a formal setting, or an informal one? Will it be combined with entertainment? Meals? Activities?
  • Will you need to include remote attendance? For example, a message from a CEO via Skype, on a big screen.
  • Very important – what’s the budget?

Most of what you need to plan for, will be supplied by the client. They’ll have an idea of the end product. It may be a formal dinner with attendees placed at tables to encourage networking, perhaps with dancing afterwards. It may be a cocktail party, snacks and a glass of bubbly, or even a ‘dress up and let your hair down’ party.

Conference network planning do’s and don’ts:

  • The longer the conference (e.g. over a weekend), and the more intense the presentations – the more informal the networking component. People need to relax, and that’s when they network best.
  • Presentations, activities and meals must be arranged around for the ideal time for networking. It’s no good to plan the networking part when people will either want to take a break and go back to their rooms for a power nap. Nor when they’ll be tired and ready to retire for the night.It also shouldn’t be planned for the night before a long day of activities or presentations.
  • The networking part of a conference needs to be planned for when people want to relax and socialise – naturally. And for the point where they’ll have lots to talk about!