From traditional round-robin setups to group meetings, the importance of hosting a conference speed networking session cannot be underestimated. They often create meaningful connections and spark collaborations in a dynamic and efficient manner.
This guide provides practical step-by-step insights that will empower event organisers with actionable strategies to plan and execute a successful conference speed networking session. Whether you're aiming for innovation or efficiency, this guide ensures adaptability to your event's unique needs.
What is Speed Networking?
Speed networking is a structured, timed activity that is designed to facilitate quick, face-to-face interactions between delegates. Participants in a speed networking session have a limited amount of time to engage in a conversation and the goal is to allow attendees to make new connections, exchange information, and explore potential partnerships.
Speed networking is often incorporated into conferences, business events, and professional networking gatherings to maximise the opportunity for participants to meet a large number of people in a short amount of time.
What are the Benefits of Speed Networking Sessions?
Conference speed networking is an effective way to direct conversations with new individuals, eliminating the need for awkward small talk. It expands professional networks, allows you to exchange ideas, and explore collaboration opportunities. Unlike other scenarios where finding the right time and location for a conversation can be challenging, speed networking provides a structured and efficient platform for meaningful interactions.
Event organisers benefit from increased attendee engagement, enhanced networking dynamics, and the facilitation of numerous meaningful connections, resulting in a more vibrant and successful event.
Conference Speed Networking Formats
Conference speed networking can take many formats, from traditional round-robin setups to themed interactions based on participant profiles. Speed networking accommodates different hierarchies, enabling delegates of all levels to efficiently connect, exchange ideas, and explore collaborations, maximising the networking potential within the conference environment.
Examples of conference speed networking formats include:
Round-robin speed networking
In a round-robin speed networking session, delegates sit or stand in a circular or linear arrangement. Each person has a predetermined amount of time, typically a few minutes, to engage in a one-on-one conversation with the person across from them. When time is up, participants rotate to the next person, repeating the process. This continues until everyone has interacted.
For event organisers, round-robin sessions provide a systematic way for a larger number of people to connect and exchange information within a set timeframe. The number of participants can vary based on the event's logistics and time constraints.
Station-based speed networking
In a station-based speed networking session, participants are assigned to specific stations or tables. Typically, one group remains stationary while the other group rotates to each station at scheduled intervals. Conversations take place between individuals at the stations, providing opportunities for focused interactions.
For event organisers, this format allows for a controlled and organised flow of networking. The number of participants and stations can vary based on the event's design, but it offers a structured way for individuals to connect with multiple others within the allocated time.
Group-based speed networking
In a group-based speed networking session, participants are divided into small groups, and each group engages in a collective networking activity. This format often involves discussions, collaborative problem-solving, or shared activities. After a designated time, groups may rotate, allowing participants to interact with different sets of individuals.
For event organisers, group-based speed networking encourages a more interactive and dynamic exchange that encourages connections through shared experiences. The number of participants in each group and the overall structure will depend on the event's overall goals and objectives.
How to Host a Conference Speed Networking Session
Hosting a conference speed networking session can be straightforward with careful planning. By keeping logistics simple, such as setting clear timeframes, providing concise instructions, and using user-friendly platforms, event organisers can create an engaging experience, ensuring participants make meaningful connections effortlessly at the event.
For example, event organisers could allocate 30 minutes, secure an open area, and gather participants. Each person has a five-minute opportunity to engage with someone unfamiliar and when the bell rings, participants move on to another new acquaintance, repeating the process for the duration of the event.
This eight-step process will ensure a seamless and engaging conference speed networking session for both event organisers and participants.
Step 1. Consider attendee objectives
Event organisers should consider attendee objectives and align conference speed networking sessions with both the event's goals and the participants' objectives in mind.
Top three questions to consider for attendee objectives:
1. How can the speed networking format enhance the overall conference experience for attendees? 2. What specific goals do participants hope to achieve through networking, and how can the session cater to diverse objectives? 3. In what ways can the speed networking session contribute to the broader themes or objectives of the conference event?
Step 2. Select a suitable event venue
Choosing the right event venue is crucial for a successful conference speed networking session because it directly impacts the flow and dynamics of interactions. A well suited venue should provide adequate space for networking setups, enable easy movement between stations or tables, and offer an environment conducive to meaningful conversations.
Top things to consider when selecting a suitable venue:
Ensure the venue has enough space for the chosen speed networking format.
Set up designated areas with sufficient seating or standing room for participants to engage comfortably.
Consider the logistics of participant movement, ensuring an organised flow between networking stations or tables.
Choose a venue that aligns with the overall atmosphere and objectives of the conference.
Ensure the location is easily accessible for all participants, taking into account transportation and proximity to conference activities.
If hosting a virtual event, select a reliable online platform that supports smooth networking interactions.
Verify that the chosen venue has the necessary technical infrastructure for any audio-visual presentations or virtual components.
If hosting a virtual conference speed networking session, ensure participants have access to stable internet connections and compatible devices.
Test and familiarise yourself with any technology or networking tools to be used during the session to avoid technical issues on the event day.
Step 3. Think about room setup requirements
The conference room setup plays a pivotal role in the success of a speed networking session. A well organised layout, clear signage, and comfortable seating contribute to smooth participant movement, fostering meaningful connections. An optimal setup ensures a conducive environment, enhancing engagement and the overall effectiveness of the networking experience at a conference event.
Top things to consider when thinking about room setup requirements:
Arrange seating to facilitate easy movement for participants.
Consider assigning designated spots to participants or using numbered tables for a more organised experience.
Ensure seating allows for face-to-face interactions while maintaining a comfortable and accessible layout.
If providing refreshments, strategically place stations away from the main networking area to avoid congestion.
Opt for convenient catering that won't disrupt conversations, such as finger food or refreshments in designated areas.
Consider dietary preferences and restrictions when planning refreshments to accommodate a diverse audience.
Audio and visuals:
Test audio and visual equipment before the event to prevent technical issues during the session.
Use microphones and speakers to ensure clear communication, especially in larger or virtual settings.
Incorporate visuals, such as screens or presentations, if relevant to the networking format, ensuring they enhance rather than distract from interactions.
Step 4. Organise the check in process
Implementing a check in process is beneficial for hosting a speed networking session as it streamlines participant registration. This helps event organisers manage attendance, distribute materials efficiently, and address any last-minute logistical considerations.
Top things to consider when organising the check in process:
Online check in:
Utilise event management platforms to allow participants to pre-register and provide essential information online.
Offer QR code check-ins at the entrance for a seamless and contactless experience, ensuring a quicker start to the speed networking session.
Prepare pre-printed name tags with visible and legible fonts, incorporating participant names and affiliations.
Set up a designated check-in area where attendees can easily retrieve their name tags, facilitating quick identification and promoting efficient networking.
Step 5. Schedule the conference speed networking session
Dedicating specific time slots for speed networking within the event agenda is crucial to ensure active participation and maximise the impact of the sessions. By assigning dedicated time, event organisers signal the importance of networking, allowing attendees to plan their schedules accordingly, prioritise connections, and fully engage in the structured and time-efficient networking opportunities provided.
Consider the following when deciding on the best time to schedule the conference speed networking session:
Beginning of event:
Pros - Participants start the event with expanded networks and initial connections may lead to increased engagement throughout the conference.
Cons - Attendees might be focused on settling in or attending other early sessions, potentially impacting turnout.
Middle of the event:
Pros - Participants have acclimated to the event, making interactions more comfortable and valuable. Networking mid-event allows for strategic follow-ups and collaboration during subsequent sessions.
Cons - Some attendees may already have established connections, potentially reducing the novelty of the networking experience.
End of the event:
Pros - Attendees leave the event with newly formed connections, reinforcing key takeaways. Late stage networking can solidify relationships and provide a platform for post event collaboration.
Cons - Fatigue may set in, affecting participant enthusiasm and energy levels during networking sessions. Some attendees might have early departures, limiting available time for interactions.
If you are an event organiser seeking guidance on how to create an event programme which includes speed networking sessions why not download our free event programme template.
Step 6. Promote the conference speed networking session
Promoting speed networking before conference events is vital to encourage participation by creating awareness and generating interest among attendees. Pre-event promotion allows participants to prepare, identify key contacts, and align their networking goals, enhancing the overall quality of interactions.
Top things to consider when promoting the conference speed networking session:
Create a dedicated section on the event website highlighting the speed networking session, outlining its format, benefits, and how participants can sign up.
Include engaging visuals, testimonials from previous sessions, and a clear call-to-action to encourage attendees to explore the opportunity.
Develop visually appealing posts across various social media platforms, providing teasers about the speed networking session and its unique features.
Use event-specific hashtags, share participant success stories, and leverage countdowns to build anticipation and drive engagement.
Send targeted email campaigns to registered participants, emphasising the speed networking session's value and providing step-by-step instructions for sign-up.
Incorporate personalised messages, highlight any notable participants or industry experts attending, and use email reminders to keep the session top-of-mind as the event approaches.
For event organisers aiming to optimise event attendance for speed networking sessions, various strategies can be employed to attract attendees, instil a sense of urgency, and generate excitement. ICC Belfast’s expert event management team have curated a list of the 'Top 7 ticket selling tips' to empower event organisers in boosting ticket sales and increasing event attendance.
Step 7. Moderate the conference speed networking session
Moderating a speed networking session at a conference event is crucial to ensure a smooth and organised experience. A moderator can guide participants through the process, enforce time limits, and address any issues that may arise. Additionally, moderation helps create a positive atmosphere and leaves participants with a positive impression of the networking session.
Top things to consider when moderating conference speed networking sessions:
Clearly explain the rules:
Begin the session by clearly articulating the rules and format to all participants, emphasising the time limit for each interaction.
Ensure everyone understands the purpose of the event, guidelines for exchanging information, and any specific instructions for follow-up actions.
Announce the halfway point:
Signal the halfway point during the session to keep participants aware of the remaining time for networking.
Use a visual or audible cue to signify the transition, helping participants manage their time effectively.
Step 8. Finish with a follow-up
Checking in with participants after a speed networking session is essential to gauge the session's success and gather valuable feedback. Feedback from participants provides insights for improvement, helps refine future sessions, and ensures that the event aligns more closely with attendees' expectations, ultimately enhancing the overall effectiveness of networking opportunities.
Top things to consider when collecting feedback on your conference speed networking session:
Ask for feedback following the session:
Send out a post-event survey to participants, asking for feedback on the speed networking session. Include questions about the format and the quality of connections made.
Use the feedback to assess strengths and areas for improvement.
Encourage participants to follow up with new connections:
Provide participants with resources or guidelines on effective follow-up strategies, emphasising the importance of building on initial connections.
Encourage the use of provided contact information, suggest personalised follow-up messages, and highlight the potential for continued collaboration beyond the event.
Speed Networking FAQs
What are some fun speed networking questions?
Engage participants with light hearted ice breaker questions like asking about dream travel destinations, favourite keynote speakers, or even what fictional character they'd want as a mentor.
Is speed networking suitable for virtual or hybrid events?
Absolutely, speed networking can seamlessly transition to virtual or hybrid formats. Virtual platforms equipped with breakout rooms and timed rotations provide an effective online counterpart, preserving the essence of quick interactions in a digital space.
How long should speed networking last?
An optimal duration for speed networking is typically 60-90 minutes. This allows enough time for participants to engage in meaningful conversations without becoming overly time-consuming. Individual interactions lasting three to five minutes strike a balance between depth of connection and efficiency.
Are there any common problems associated with speed networking?
Common issues include uneven participant engagement, technical glitches in virtual settings, and challenges in effectively matching participants. Proactive planning, clear instructions, and responsive troubleshooting can help event organisers.
Speed Networking at ICC Belfast
The team at ICC Belfast excel in facilitating dynamic speed networking sessions during conference events. The versatile spaces across the venue are designed to accommodate various speed networking formats, ensuring optimal room setups that enhance participant interactions.
Bring your speed networking session to life using the latest sound, video, design and production technologies that can integrate seamlessly with timers and networking tools. Our dedicated team can offer hands on assistance on the day, from coordinating participant check-ins to managing rotations.