For much of my speaking career I have been known as the “Conference Catalyst”. My message of connecting with people has taken many different turns over my 15 years as a speaker. The world has changed, but the basics of human to human connections remains the same. Conference networking is still a key reason people attend live events. But too often the event moves “networking” away from the focus. Conferences without great engagement never are seen as “great”.
If you make networking a second tier priority, you will have second tier results. Conference Networking matters. To be successful at connecting at an event, people must own their actions. There is much written on this subject (like this article on Forbes), but you cannot assume the majority of people are planning ahead for their conference networking actions. The best events help educate people on site.
During the recession, with millions of people out of work or worried about layoffs, we saw associations champion networking. The smartest meeting planners realized that people could find information online, but they could not really network via the internet. Yes there are networking sites and social media tools, but few people have seen the amazing results promised from likes, links, shares, and follows. I ask conference audiences how many people have more “friends” than they did before these tools. Few admit they have many more slight acquaintances, but not better friendships. We certainly know when someone eats a burrito, but it is not a magic networking tool to help someone find a job.
The internet has too much noise. With well planned conference networking you have a finite group where all are present with similar intentions. But conference networking does not happen by accident. You need to create a culture for connections to ensure that people can engage at a two or three day event.
Enter “The Conference Catalyst”. My keynote about “The New Networking” talks about how and why people need to cultivate long-term and mutually beneficial relationships. But it is not the “networking” talk that you might be assuming. It challenges people to look at how they choose people in a world where many are seeking digital shortcuts to relationships.
Beyond skills that everyone should know as they build their career, the kicker in this keynote is how I spin it around and discuss how to make your conference a “Human Laboratory”. Through an interactive and fun talk (they will laugh and cry) the group is provided with ideas on how to make the event the best conference ever. Conference networking becomes not an afterthought, but something everyone sees as key to their return on investment from attending. Introverts and extroverts lean ideas that will create better hallway conversations.
In addition to the opening keynote, there is also the option of having me stay on as the master of ceremonies for the conference. In this role together we build on the importance of connections. Each general session is infused with fun and funny observations about the event, and people are challenged to meet more people than they have ever done at any other conference. Your participants are given the permission and the road map to the most exciting conference networking. As the EmCee I make the conference more fun and keep it running on schedule. But more importantly, people talk to each other.
And lets face it, everyone knows the “Hallways Conversations” are the best part of any event. If your participants are not talking to each other in the halls, then your event is blah.
Does your conference have a catalyst? No matter what is happening in the economy, all opportunities come from people. Conference Networking is the key to a great conference.
Thom Singer is a motivational speaker and professional master of ceremonies / EmCee. His “Conference Catalyst” program is uniquely suited to engage any audience to embrace the power of the people in attendance at your event.