How do I get people to network at my events?

“How do I successfully encourage networking at events /conferences? And do you have any examples of networking exercises that work?” - It was briefly brought up in the previous networking question, and it’s a hot topic if you’re hosting events – getting people to network at your events. 

Whatever your opinion of facilitated networking, you’ve probably experienced it to some extent in the past. Check out the discussion and different opinions below!



I recommend that networking at events are facilitate; in my experience participants do not just network because we call it a networking break/networking lunch/time for networking etc.
We must set the scene, mix the participants maybe in groups, make a timeframe, pose the questions/topics that the participants should network about and then guide them through the session by being good at holding the time and getting them to exchange knowledge, advise, ideas and contacts...And in some situations you must also motivate the networking by pointing out;

1. that it's knowledge, advise, ideas and contact we can help each other with.

2. be good at sharing also with people you have just met.

3. the better the individual is to ask for what he need, the better the network can help.

I believe networking is most interesting and works the best, when the networking sessions are individually designed for the special occasion/event. So consider what's the purpose with the event/the networking session? - there is no "one way fit's all"! 



We currently add networking as a "standard element" to most of our arrangements/ conferences. If up to 30 - 50 participants we place people at small tables of 6 - 8 persons. We always make a long named networking break mid-ways, and people TALK - at the end of the event we usually make room for further networking.
At large events - if time allows, ask people to spend 2 minutes with either "neighbour" introducing themselves - usually curiosity arises and the talk continues during the event whenever there's a hole in between speeches.



I agree with Charlotte that we, the hosts of the events, have the responsibility to set the scene and facilitate the process of good networking by posing questions or topics for the participants to discuss or in other ways set the frame.
Another way to increase the level of networking among participants at courses, conferences or events is to ask the speaker or lecturer to include elements of dialogue and involvement of the participants. An example could be small questions for the participants to discuss with the person(s) next to them, group work/group discussions during the lecture relating to the topic of the event, and so on. These initiatives have especially been a great success for LAK, Landsforeningen for Kommunikation, where I have volunteered with event planning and hosting of conferences etc. for a number of years. But it requires a focused effort and dedication from both the people planning the event as well as the speakers or lecturers