Networking events are as popular as ever — but there’s been a change in what constitutes successful networking. Savvy event planners are reconsidering how they design events to keep up with the times, and they’re leaning on event technology to do so. Follow along to explore the six latest innovative networking event ideas.

Casual happy-hour networking

Business networking events don’t have to take place in a conference room. Hosting a casual happy hour is a tried-and-true networking event idea that can help attendees relax and get to know each other. People often find it easier to build contacts and relationships in a less formal setting — try hosting your happy hour in a restaurant, bar, cafe, or gallery. To host an in-office event, you can hire a bartender or recruit a staff member to handle the drinks. Don’t forget to serve mocktails alongside cocktails.

Even though hosting a casual happy hour networking event can help attendees relax, starting up a conversation may still be difficult for some people. Hosting your event in interactive venues or designating certain people to facilitate introductions can help start and keep conversations flowing. Think about reserving space at a bar with games, a cafe with live music, or a specialty bookstore offering publications on a relevant topic.

Speed dating

“Speed dating” is a structured event aimed at introducing attendees to many qualified leads, knowledgeable mentors, and future collaborators in a short period.

This involves rows of tables at which suppliers, exhibitors, and even speakers sit for the duration. Attendees move through the rows and speak with the person seated at each table for a set period (typically 7 to 10 minutes). Those originally seated at the table stay put. 

Consider speeding up the “speed dating” by using Eventbrite’s platform to automate the process of building attendee schedules for your group. These personal agendas ensure attendees know who they’re talking to when and where they’re supposed to be for each meeting. Advertising the exhibitors who will be there also allows attendees to research the people and companies they will meet in advance — and offers the exhibitors some valuable exposure.

Attendee-driven appointments

Give attendees an idea of who else is attending the event — and a way to connect with one another — so they can set up attendee-driven appointments during the event. Create an event directory to allow for attendee-directed searching and filtering, giving attendees the ability to find the connections that are most relevant to them. Encourage attendees to use social media features, like a custom event hashtag or group, to easily connect with people in their network who will also be at an event.

Field trips

When your goal is to spur new ideas and create an opportunity for a team or industry to network, a field trip could be right for your event. Take eventgoers to an offsite location, where they can learn about a different industry and consider what aspects they can apply to their own field. For example, a team of publishing editors might be able to get some valuable takeaways to apply to their industry during a brewery tour.

The goal of these trips is for attendees to find commonalities in other industries that they can apply to improve teamwork, quality control, and their processes at work. Try putting attendees into small groups where they can share information and ask each other questions. When you’re planning your networking event activity, try venues such as a factory, mail room, art studio, boutique, outdoor attraction, or restaurant. Some questions attendees may want to ask include:

  • How is this location/business similar or different to your industry?
  • What role (that you saw on the tour today) do you most identify with?
  • What insights can you apply to your current industry or business?

Topical lunch tables

Consider networking over lunch to appeal to busy professionals. You can organize different lunch spaces by topic or industry and provide a map of these topical tables to attendees. Then, they can choose to eat lunch at the table most relevant to their interests and network with other participants. It’s a good idea to follow post-pandemic recommendations when preparing your seating arrangements — allow plenty of room. Find out if your attendees have any dietary requirements or allergies by asking custom checkout questions during event registration.

With intuitive maps and diagrams available right in attendees’ hands via mobile event apps, gone are the days of struggling to find a specific table of interest. A comprehensive mobile event app and management software help manage the many moving parts in this scenario.

Improve networking at your event with the “Hallway Track” concept

“The Hallway Track” is the name given to those somewhat serendipitous meetings that aren’t outlined in the schedule – the chance meetings that happen when attendees pass one another in the hallway. These encounters can be game-changing for attendees, and it’s important to capitalize on them when they happen.

Event app features such as searchable directories and badge scanning help facilitate this. With these features, attendees can search for a new contact and schedule a more formal meeting later. They can also gather a digital business card to keep in touch after the event.

A few networking strategy tips

Planning a networking event is easier than you think. Define your market or group to connect with and consider when and where might work best for them. While after-work drinks may work well for young professionals, stay-at-home parents may prefer mid-day.

Make a special effort to cater to introverts at your event. Large groups can be difficult for some, so encourage small-group mingling in the setup of your space. Event planners have long used fun “ice-breaker” games to encourage networking at events. You can also use event apps and social media connections to make it easier for your attendees to meet.

Also, consider how your attendees can meet or stay in touch after the networking event concludes. Use social media to engage your guests beyond your time together. Create chat groups or ask everyone to post pictures to a shared page so that attendees keep the conversation going.

Need more tips? We’ve got all the bases covered in our step-by-step guide.

Take your networking event strategies to the next level with Eventbrite

With the above six networking strategies, you’ll ensure attendees create connections that count. Ready to make your networking event a reality? Let Eventbrite help with your next business event.