We asked the participants of the Virtual Networking Incubator what feelings in-person networking brought up for them. 58% said anxiety and concern. I am even feeling a twinge of anxiety just typing this stat!
We asked the same question at the end of each of our virtual networking gatherings, “what feelings did this gathering bring up for you?” On average, 16% of the participants noted some level of anxiety and concern.
This data point is just one of many indicators that in-person networking events were kind of broken even before the pandemic. Sure, some people get tons of value out of in-person networking events some of the time. Still, for many professionals, in-person networking is an anxiety-producing activity. Which begs the question…
Is there anything that the great folks at Matchbox Virtual Media, 150+ awesome Incubator participants, and I learned from the Virtual Networking Incubator that we could adapt to the in-person format?
One of the reasons in-person networking events are so anxiety-producing is that there is nothing to do besides chit-chat. If someone hasn’t found someone to converse with, they feel awkward. Trying to insert yourself into an existing discussion feels embarrassing, and chats among strangers can feel uncomfortable. When the conversation is going nowhere, it’s awkward finding a way to extract yourself. Cringe!!!
Remove many of those awkward feelings by giving attendees something to do. We found that creating a structure for every event creates more opportunities for connection than a free-for-all does. Structured activities promote participation, so everyone feels included. And structure creates space for meaningful conversation because attendees have permission to skip the small talk.
If you have a virtual or in-person networking event coming up, think about how you can structure the session to add activities to facilitate meaningful conversations among your attendees and members.
In the Virtual Networking Incubator Roundup Report, you can find details on adding structure to your event and many more strategies for making all types of networking events less uncomfortable and more effective!