It is finally starting to happen. As a professional speaker I am starting to hear from meeting planners who are looking to host live and in-person events in the fall of 2021. It has been a long year in the meetings business, and now there seems to be a real movement to convene. But how will we connect once we get onsite at events? Conference connections are suddenly more important than ever before.
We learned that virtual platforms work well to deliver content, but the human connections that happen in the serandipitous hallway conversations are hard to replicate on a Zoom Call. Yes, Zoom breakout rooms are good, but for many people they were not great and often were too long or too short (depending whom you were paired with). The move back to in-person has a lot of people excited, but some are worried. Are people ready? Is there a level of uncertainty and trepidation about networking now? Studies show that people who leave society for the Space Station or to cross Antarctica find themselves socially awkward when they return, and now we have everyone in this same situation.
HOT TOPIC – The Topic of Networking and Conference Connections
Not since the years following the great recession have I seen the topic of “Connections” be this popular for meetings. People realize that those who do the best at creating new relationships will have a big advantage over their competition. Many in business have let some of their connections get stale, and if that is you, your competitors want to say “Thank You”. Never before has there been more opportunity to stand out in any industry if you can relate and connect with other humans.
Conference connections will not happen by accident in the new world. An open bar is not enough to get people to engage.
As I am working with organizations who do not want to pass on the human advantage, I see a lot of people confused. For a decade we thought that being an “Influencer” and having the most “likes” on social media was the answer. But people do business with those they know, like, and trust…. and if buyers are not following your posts, who cares what you say on Twitter (or other social media platforms)?
Make Your Event The Best Ever
To make your conference the best event ever, it is time to curate a “Culture of Connections”. For a decade I have been known as “The Conference Catalyst” and serve as an opening keynote speaker. My purpose is to show participants that if the networking is better, the event is better. We know that people come to in-person events for the learning AND the networking opportunities. But now the networking is even more important.
If people are coming to meet others, you must give them the chance. Planning for conference connections is paramount to the success of your meeting. People want and need “permission” and you have to make it part of the whole purpose. If you treat the networking like 2nd tier priority, your participants will have 2nd tier results. The time is now to get your event positioned as the “place to be” for all who could possibly attend.
The Speakers Matter In Building Community
Not all speakers are created equal. Many are just going to talk and leave. But if networking matters, your speakers must be seen as your partners. When selecting mainstage and breakout speakers, look for people who are both interactive and committed to stay on site an participate the day of their event. If they are not willing to be part of the conference community…. pick a different speaker.
People follow what they admire. If you speakers “wow” the audience and then go hide in their room (or run to the airport), your whole event suffers. Look for speakers who like to engage with any audience and share with them your expectations for their participation. The world of meetings is changing and speakers role in the mix is different; before, during, and after the event. To create conference connections you need it built into every session. Thus the speaker’s buy in and execution will be key.
About Thom Singer
After a successful career in sales and marketing, Thom Singer became a growth leadership speaker in 2009. A decade later he has brought his high energy presentations and action-oriented content to over 900 audiences. Thom knows that as the speaker or master of ceremonies he has a responsibility to set the tone for a strong conference attendee experience. Known as “The Conference Catalyst” he creates an atmosphere of fun and interaction that lasts beyond his presentation.
Thom earned his Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) in 2014 and is committed to the business of meetings. He is the author of 12 books and is the host of the popular “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast. On his show he has interviewed over 400 entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, business leaders and others with a focus on discovering how the most successful people get farther across the gap between potential and results.
At 50 years old Thom decided to reinvent his life and make age 50 to 75 the best years of his life. This meant saying yes to things that scared him, and trying new things. Since that time Thom has jumped off buildings, took up running (and lost 30 lbs) and began performing stand up comedy.