The Must-Have Tools to Boost Your Networking Opportunities

Stova networking

Skift Take

Networking is too important to an event’s success to leave to chance. Working with the right technology and partners can generate connections that demonstrate the value a meeting or event provides attendees.

This content was created collaboratively by Stova and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

One of the most commonly cited benefits of meeting face-to-face is the chance to make connections when networking. That’s true — in theory.

For all the talk about making the most of our time together, it’s still challenging to make networking events engaging and unique into actionable solutions. As the Freeman Trends Report indicates, the opportunities to connect at conferences, meetings, trade shows, and other events often do not align with what attendees and exhibitors prefer.

Too often, networking relies on outgoing individuals sparking conversations while introverts try oh-so-hard to resist the urge to become wallflowers. However, meeting planners can’t always rely on placing a large group of individuals in one room — no matter how like-minded they are — and expect them to socialize effectively.

This is where traditional meetings can and should adopt tools that are driving the future of events. Technology has advanced to the point where event organizers have little excuse not to study data and analytics to make informed decisions. Incorporating the proper platforms to maximize this information remains a sore spot for creating engaging networking opportunities.

But while there is certainly a science to driving connections, an essential element is for event producers to first connect with the right partners. Too often, event technology vendors can explain the basics of their services but struggle to understand or articulate the deeper purpose behind how their apps and software are used.

Stova has seen firsthand the importance of planners working with a vendor that truly understands events and can make strategic decisions to help meet objectives. In the case of networking, the ultimate goal is to build or enhance working relationships that encourage collaboration and spark innovation, leading to breakthroughs and greater revenue.

Here, we share seven important tools, tasks, and pieces of advice that will help your networking rise to the occasion.

1. Stellar Customer Service

The most basic needs can be the most elusive. Technology is a great tool for boosting human interaction, but it’s just that — a tool. Event planners need a team they can trust and who can press the right buttons to nudge attendees together. Knowledge must go beyond technology and extend to making meetings impactful.

For example, Stova is often cited for its prompt service, which is predicated upon being available at all hours every day. “It’s imperative to make sure that these folks have that kind of access immediately, and they can get answers based on what they’re delivering now,” says Madeleine Monaghan, director of global training at Stova.

Monaghan also notes the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. The right vendor can predict a client’s needs, sometimes even before planning teams know them. Scheduling regular check-ins and routinely examining a platform’s responsiveness are two best practices to avoid a last-minute emergency.

2. AI Matchmaking

Don’t leave networking to chance. Take advantage of this predictive technology to put like-minded individuals in a position to meet via pre-event virtual calls, scheduled one-on-one appointments on-site, and curate invitation lists for exclusive engagements and activations. Already an effective tool, particularly among hosted-buyer events, AI will only become a more powerful ally in bringing people together.

3. Data Tracking

By now, event planners know this is a must but may need more time or drive to do it well. In this case, persistence certainly pays off. Use analytics, not instincts, to measure the success of networking sessions. Adaptation is important regardless of the outcome. Few individuals want to do the same activity twice, and no one wants to recreate an unpleasant experience. See what’s working in your event community and strategically plan ahead.

Ironically, the most effective way to do this is at the beginning of an event cycle, says Monaghan, noting the importance of asking the right questions at the onset or after a previous meeting. “It’s essential to set the standard early on, and that sometimes begins by analyzing the data properly from previous events.”

Stova networking

4. Move Icebreakers Out of the Ice Age

It’s not advisable to wait until your show’s opening day to have attendees warm to one another. Start the process at registration by incentivizing your community to download the event app early and creating a points system for filling out profiles and engaging in pre-event virtual gatherings and activities.
Why not offer a trivia or game night a few weeks before meeting in person? That way, you have some built-in talking points ready to go. And while the pendulum has strongly swung back to in-person, many events still have a virtual component. Attendees are accustomed to going online in the right circumstances.

Given the somewhat challenging trend of attendees signing up as or just before the registration window closes, the more that can be done upfront will alleviate stress points that planners can’t necessarily control.

5. Let the Games Begin

“Gamification” is a bit of an overused term going back to the height of the pandemic, but the principles behind it are as relevant as ever. Scavenger hunts and other on-site adventures spark conversations and activity. Networking happens organically at that point. All the while, event planners are collecting all-important data for marketing, sales, and other future engagement purposes.

6. Improved Listings

One common quibble with attendee lists is how difficult they can be to sort. Attendees may know they want to meet with vendors and prospective business partners but don’t know who to reach out to. Make the listings on the app interactive, hyperlinking to email addresses and event app profiles. The easier it is for people to interact, the better.

It’s important to remember that listings are vital for pre-show communication. Attendees and exhibitors can pre-schedule times and locations to meet. Likewise, organizations with news to share can reach out to media attending the show to build a relationship and set up on-site interviews for podcasts, articles, and research papers.

7. Badges of Honor

One key element of networking is facilitating follow-up conversations. Don’t count on attendees carrying business cards. Place a QR code on badges to easily transfer contact information to a fellow attendee’s mobile device.

Here is an important example of why selecting a platform that integrates well with your company’s CRM is important. Not only will your team be able to see which organizations and individuals interacted well during the event, but it will also facilitate follow-up conversations that can lead to future business. Once those results have been finalized, you can collect testimonials that are invaluable for future marketing.

For more information about integrating technology and partnerships into your networking efforts, visit Stova’s website.

This content was created collaboratively by Stova and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.