This post is part of a series that comes to us from Anne @UniqueGifter, a website full of awesome gift giving ideas and ways to spice up otherwise mundane wedding gifts, like sheets! Anne recently hosted two speed networking events, as the Vice-President of an industry group. When she had trouble finding the information she needed in order to know how to host a speed networking event, she knew it was time to put her insights to work online.
The first post in the series will cover why people go to networking events // recommended group sizes // how to choose a venue // best option for meal plans // organizing RSVPs // and designing handouts
The second post will give a few examples of room set up variation
By far the most intimidating aspect of planning a speed networking event is deciding on the appropriate room layout. You want your attendees to mingle, but not to feel claustrophobic. You need to be able to talk amongst a group, but also to be comfortable speaking one on one. Check out these three room layouts for a speed networking event that Anne tested:
For the first event, we were set up as shown in (A). For rotations, the inside people stayed seated and the outside people moved clockwise. The pros were that the direction of rotation was very clear and we didn’t have to move for dinner. The cons were it was very loud being elbow to elbow with everyone, so much so that some weren’t able to hear at all.
I think that layout (A) would be more successful if there were full seat gaps between people, then later everyone could move closer together for food. You can still assign seating in this layout, similar to layout (B) or you can let people select their own starting seats. People are usually more comfortable sitting with people that they know, however this partially defeats the purpose of a networking event.
For the second event, we were set up as shown in (B). There were separate tables that sat two people each. I used Publisher to make letter based table numbers and set them out. Then, as everyone arrived, they were handed a small square of paper that had a background colour and a letter, to act as a starting point. There were two background colours and I handed out the letters in order, so that if there were any no-shows, it would not affect the rotations.
To start the evening, the grey background and orange background As started at the A table, etc. Once we completed the rotations, we moved the tables to form two long ones for dinner and had all of the orange tickets sit together and all of the grey tickets sit together. Those are the folks who did not have a chance to meet during the networking rotations. I found that this worked a lot more smoothly, mostly due to the spacing. There are more details on the rotations later on in the series.
A third option where the rotations are not too complicated is to have tables of 3 set up in a circle or semi-circle, as shown in (C). To do this, hand out three colour Table Assignments as people arrive. In front of each seat, or taped to the seat, place an appropriate coloured swatch. Where it is clear in the first two table layouts, for this one you need to clearly assign seats to make it more straightforward.
In the diagram, the people with Blue stay seated for the entire speed networking portion. The outside seats, with purple chits, rotate clockwise and follow the letter order. The inside seats, with Red chits, rotate counter clockwise.
You likely want to put arrows in front of the seats, or write “Go to X next” in front of each seat, so that people don’t get confused going backward in the alphabet! If you do this group seating plan, you will want to add approximately two minutes per rotation, so that everyone has a chance to speak. People are able to meet more attendees this way, however it does require more time per rotation.
The third post will provide helpful tips on timing // registration // writing an introduction speech // and the best way to organize rotations
The fourth and final post in the series will cover passing out review forms // and follow up emails