6 Simple Ways to Facilitate Conference Connections

Peekaboo by Flickr user lintmachine. Creative Commons usage
What’s on your iPod?  What’s in your Netflix cue?  What shows do you Tivo?

In this age of social networking, we like to turn to others to help guide our choices.  Simple technologies allow us to more easily find, connect with, and tap into the brain trust of a much larger group of individuals than before.

Except at most meetings.  Yes, we are getting better at more strategically incorporating shared interest groups and other communities of like-minded individuals into conference schedules.  But when we talk about tapping into the interests of the community, we have a lot of unfulfilled opportunities.

While I'm a heavy user of sophisticated electronic community-building software whenever it is part of a conference, here are a few easier-to-implement tactics:

1.  In meeting registration materials spotlight a half-dozen or so actual attendees and the mix of activities they plan on attending during your conference ala “What’s on your meeting schedule?”

2.  In addition to the traditional speaker bio have each presenter share one book and one blog related to their presentation that they consider “must read" and one relevant resources to follow on Twitter, Pinterest, or another similar site.

3.  Add a field to your registration database asking participants to identify a question or topic they would most like to engage with others around during your meeting.  Print it on nametags and in your participant directory.

4.  In a general session, create some optional “reserved” seating areas for people with common job functions.  Then allow time at the close of the session for people to share with each other how they plan on applying the speaker’s ideas.

5.  Organize your registration area not alphabetically, but by local affiliates, states, or some other demographic that makes standing in line a potential networking opportunity.

6.  Do a “stand up or raise your hand if this statement describes you” exercise at the start of a session.  Read a variety of demographic statements of characteristics and ask people to stand if the statement applies to them.  It provides a quick visual of who’s in the room and can facilitate some fast connections among kindred spirits.

Birds of a feather do indeed flock together, and the smart meeting planner helps facilitate those connections being made quickly and frequently throughout a conference.

How else have you seen a meeting or conference help people connect or spotlight individuals as curators for others?

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