25 event networking ideas

Are you looking for inspiration 💡 ? Then this list is for you.

We have put together 25 event networking ideas on this page. Because networking is the way to boost your events  🚀💥

In this graph below, you can see them:

  • The higher they are positioned, the better is the ROI or Return on Investement
  • The more to the right, the more informal this networking approach is. This is a good way to avoid awkward moments.

Please let me know on the LinkedIn post if you have any comments. 
I will keep this page up-to-date, so be sure to check again soon.

Now let’s compare these ideas a bit more:

Idea Description Evaluation
1. Pre-planned People go through the attendee list and indicate who they like to meet. The other person confirms and then the meeting is typically automatically scheduled. The big disadvantage of pre-planned is the overhead. It often takes a lot of time to manually go through all the attendees, request a meeting, approve a meeting and then potentially reschedule. To solve this, 67% of organizers are currently planning to have an auto-planned networking session.
Also, because only part of the audience is networking, it is harder to curate for the event organizer and you often get many no-shows for the meetings.
2. Auto-planned At the start, attendees fill in their profile and possibly who they like to meet. Then, the system automatically schedules all meetings and the schedules are then typically mailed to the participants about 3 days before the event.

This approach has 2 major advantages:

  • It is very efficient. Participants have to do very little and get an optimal experience, with great ROI
  • It is easy to fit in to the event schedule: Just “put your attendees in a room” and everything runs by itself.
This format allows the organizer to offer more value to the attendees, by spending more time themselves during preparation.
One disadvantage can be no-shows. If you have considerable no-shows, many meetings will not go through, which means frustration. Some systems provide easy ways to cope with no-shows using dynamic re-scheduling, but still, if you want to be really flexible, it is easier to go for matched speed networking.
3. Matched speed networking The system checks in real-time who is available and puts the best matches in a meeting. This is “networking on steroids”.  This provides very good ROI and gives great dynamics to the atmosphere in the room.
One disadvantage is of course that people can’t prepare for their meetings, so this should only be used for “exploratory meetings”, typically where the system knows better who to match because of the high availability of data.
Another disadvantage is that the meeting can end very abrupt, since meetings are typically short.
To solve these, you can go for Adaptive speed networking or 2-step networking.
4. Adaptive speed networking Same as speed networking, but with variable meeting duration. When the attendees’ meeting is finished, they indicate this and get their next meeting within 20 seconds. This type of networking is ideal in the sense that you get maximum ROI, while still giving the attendees a very high level of control: they indicate upfront what (kind of) people they want to meet and how long they like to meet.
5. 2-step networking Networking is done in 2 steps: First you organise an exploratory part, with short speed networking meetings. At the end of each speed networking session, people indicate who they like to meet further. In a second part, people meet with those people they indicated as interesting. This approach is ideal if you want to go as far as possible with matchmaking during just 1 event, without the need for the attendees to prepare and when non-measurable aspects’ like “having a click” are key in the matchmaking.
6. Speed networking The system checks in real-time who is available and puts those together in meetings, randomly. The advantage w.r.t. match speed networking is that you don’t need any preparation from the attendees. Attendees can even easily join when the speed networking already started. The disadvantage is of course that no matching happens, meaning that you get a much lower ROI. Hence, this is mainly used as a “dynamics booster”.
7. Seat rotation This approach requires no technology: just put a lot of chairs. E.g. every 5 minutes, all people move one seat to meet another attendee. Matches are random, so it is obvious that this presents a minimal ROI. It can be helpful though, e.g. to boost the interactive atmosphere during an event.
8. Auto-generated attendee lists This approach typically starts from a community of more than 1000 members and a system doing extensive matchmaking. You then define an event with location, size and theme. The system then provides the attendee list automatically. When one person cannot attend, the system automatically provides the next-best match.
This networking format can be used in combination with other networking formats.
This can be combined with several other networking formats.
This is a tremendous help to increase the ROI and still have very little awkwardness.
The challenge is of course that you need at least about 1000 members of which you have an elaborate profile. MeetMatch can help to automatically provide such profiles.
9. Theme & search based groups During a session, you put attendees together based on a common theme. To make sure that everybody likes to be in the group, the matching takes care that every person has at least one other person which is really interesting for them (=search based), e.g. a potential customer. Doing group matching search based provides a huge boost to the NPS score. If you combine this with auto-generated attendee list, you come to an optimal format for the atmosphere in the group, and still with a very good ROI.
10. Discussion tables You put people together on topic, theme or similar. You allocate a moderator and a note-taker per group. In the end, notes of each table are available to all attendees and winners for best results can be celebrated This format is ideal if you want your event to produce outcome, like e.g. new approaches to tackle certain challenges.
11. Real-time with polling input Suppose you have a presenter at your event. You like to have networking in between. Networking is optimal if you have different opinions and people who are interesting for each other.
So, the presenter shows a multiple-choice question, e.g. with 4 options. People vote and are then put together based on different response and business interest for each other.
 This format is ideal if you want to offer a break between presentations. The fact that this is in groups of typically 4 means that it’s not a problem if e.g. one person needs to go to the bathroom.
12. Content subscription  During registration, you propose a list of topics to the registrees. Afterwards, you can plan e.g. 3 content sessions after each other with e.g. 10 parallel topics. Each attendee is then matched to 3 of these sessions. This approach is great e.g. if you want to have attendance for sessions of your sponsors.
13. Open questions A moderator asks questions. People answer using the event app and everything appears on the screen in front. The moderator guides the discussion and asks authors of comments to elaborate. This is great for the overall engagement. ROI is low though.
14. Topic market Attendees can propose topics to discuss in group or 1-to-1. People can join those topics. Challenge: The proposed topics are often “Sales questions in disguise”, which can lead to awkward moments. So, this needs careful guiding.
Another attention point is that you should combine this with AI matching. AI can do a much better job at matching people than you can ever do manually. Plus, AI will foster serendipity. Otherwise, ROI will be rather low.
15. Speakers’ corner People are free to start speaking “in a corner” and other attendees come by and listen. Great if you have a big location. This brings the possibility to speak to the full audience.
16. Unconference Is quite similar to Topic market. Attendees propose topics in the schedule and people decide which sessions they attend. Can become quite chaotic when no event app is used, so communicate well.
17. Group chat A chat with all attendees of the event, in the event app. Very basic. Becomes inefficient for 200 attendees or above.
18. In-person booths At a fair, people can visit a physical booth The classic approach to trade shows. The ROI is fairly limited, but many people stick to this model because so many people are familiar with it.
19. Virtual booths At a virtual fair, people can visit virtual booths During COVID times, many companies tried to mimic in-person booths in the virtual world. I think this is just a very bad idea. When you go digital, you should leverage the benefits of going digital, e.g. start with automatic waiting queues to get a video chat.
20. Side activities You organize fun activities outside of the event location like yoga, a boat trip, … This is a great way to bring variation and relaxation in the schedule, while still doing some good networking. Don’t do this for the ROI.
21. Community events You organize all kind of events around your event location like parties, museum visits, … Great for the atmosphere. You only get ROI if you use matching during these side events.
22. Ask me about Give everybody a sticker -or put it on their cup- with “Ask me about” and let them complete the sentence. Basically it gives everyone easy conversation starters. Thanks to Deanna N for the idea. Extraverts don’t get it. Introverts love it. It’s a nice way to make networking receptions just a little more interactive.
23. Networking reception The most classic networking format… Always great to do this to relax after an event, but don’t expect big ROI…
One of the key challenges is that people only talk with whom they already know.
24. Manual networking ambassadors Dedicated members of staff or volunteers who make networking easier. They guide attendees to the people they should meet This is the ideal approach if you want a relaxed atmosphere for high-level people. This is possible until about 150 attendees. Above that, it becomes very hard for ambassadors to remember who is who. (You can always split your event in groups of 150, but this would be a big ROI-loss, since people in different groups can’t meet each other.)
25. AI-assisted networking ambassadors Networking ambassadors who are assisted using AI. The AI gives them insights on a tablet they carry. This is the ideal approach if you want a relaxed atmosphere for high-level people. The ROI can be huge. This is possible until about 400 attendees.

When can you use these?

For almost every event. Some people say “Yes, but we do a trade fair and we never did any extra networking.” I truly believe that also trade fairs can benefit enormously from adding extra networking opportunities. After all, events that fail to evolve are at risk of becoming obsolete.

Which one should you use?

Every idea has it’s value in certain contexts. And we are still learning as we go… I think it’s also a good idea to mix & match several of these in one event. MeetMatch was specifically designed as networking OS: it allows you to easily and dynamically configure your networking.
The MeetMatch event networking app supports all of these networking formats. So, we have extensive experience with their advantages and disadvantages and will be glad to help you in selecting the right format for you.

Ask a meeting here:

Have fun networking!

Geert Van Wonterghem
CEO MeetMatch

MeetMatch employee - Frederik

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