Wouldn’t it be great to run B2B networking events that always give everyone a gratifying and meaningful experience each and every time?
As wonderful as that sounds, in reality, that’s just not possible.
There are certain factors that will make your guests feel awkward or unsafe when interacting with other attendees.
After all, the very nature of B2B networking events is people stepping outside of their comfort zones to participate in (not always meaningful) conversations with strangers.
In one of her INC. articles, the angel investor and strategist Kelly Hoey argues, “Everyone has networking anxieties.”
As Hoey specifies, “If someone says they don't, I'd say they are not telling the whole truth—as we all think about wonder about the other attendees, whether an event will meet our expectations, what to say or if we'll spill a drink or if we'll be introduced to someone mid-bite into an hors d’oeuvre.”
So if you’ve ever wondered about your attendees’ emotional state before your B2B networking events, you should know that people are scared … to death. Literally.
Leadership consultant and author Devora Zack notes that meeting and speaking to new people is experienced as life-threatening.
“That’s absurd,” you’d think, and you’d be partially correct.
But believe it or not, this is how attendees’ brains perceive the upcoming interaction experience.
Zack remarks that as a result of the human fight-or-flight response, some people will, most probably, identify your B2B networking events as something highly unpleasant.
“Why should I care?” you must be thinking.
After all, your job is to plan flawless B2B networking events, invite high-quality attendees, and set up a comfortable environment for effective interaction.
If they “can’t socialize,” that’s their fault, isn’t? Nope.
Like it or not, you are responsible for your attendees’ wellbeing.
Read on to find out why.
Why you need to consider your guests’ emotional state during B2B networking events
The bitter truth about your networking dynamics is this: Your attendees hate it.
But that’s not their fault.
Here’s the good news: You have the power to change this unjust attitude toward event networking.
Yet, before talking about this, let’s see why you should care in the first place, and what could happen if you choose to overlook your attendees’ emotional state.
Reason #1. Highly stressful environments may harm your attendees’ performance
True, your guests aren’t Venus or Serena Williams, and they’re not trying to win a tennis match under intense pressure at your events.
But they are representing businesses or companies, and their mission is to get the most out of your B2B networking events both professionally and personally.
Unfortunately, this may not always happen. Because of anxiety and pre-event stress, your attendees may prefer to engage less, or may perform worse while interacting with others.
Reason #2. Your guests’ overall experience will suffer
Do you want to plan a successful B2B networking event? Is your intention to associate your event brand with gratifying interactions and positive outcomes for your attendees? Are you motivated to give your guests a truly memorable experience?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, know that you won’t be able to do all of that without taking good care of your attendees’ emotional state.
They must feel safe, comfortable, and eager to interact with others.
Otherwise, their overall experience will have to suffer and, at the end of the day, your event will suck. Surely you don’t want this to happen.
Reason #3. You’ll end up with an unsatisfying ROI
Why are you running B2B networking events in the first place? Are you trying to help businesses connect and build meaningful relationships? You won’t achieve that if you ignore your attendees’ emotional state.
They may feel shy or uncomfortable to interact with others, thus missing the opportunity of engaging in relevant business conversations.
Reason #4. The value you add to your guests is equal to zero
Do you want to be known as an efficient connector? How do you intend to achieve that if you do nothing to solve the emotional crisis of B2B networking events?
Because of the awkwardness and the overall experience your guests may have, they will get go home thinking that your event was nothing more than a complete waste of time.
Reason #5. Your networking event’s social impact will be limited
Most probably, you’d love to see people talk about your B2B networking events and recommend your dynamics to others. You may even have an event hashtag you’d like to see actively trending. However, if your attendees feel uncomfortable or unhappy at your gatherings, it’s very unlikely that they’ll share positive comments about their experience, and if anything, will share negative feedback.
So what do you do?
How can you eliminate (at least partially, if not entirely) the pre-networking stress and anxiety attendees feel about interacting with other guests?
To help you, we’ve put together a list of recommendations you can follow to get people to feel comfortable at your B2B networking events.
Steps to get your attendees to actually enjoy the networking dynamics
Your B2B networking events can be so much more than just rigid dynamics with guests who walk around stiffly and aimlessly without truly connecting with anyone.
In fact, you can transform the interaction dynamic into one of the most efficient environments for businesses and institutions to build truly meaningful and useful connections.
Here’s what you should do:
Step #1. Gather the attendees at a pre-event “get-to-know-each-other” dinner
There’s nothing better than connecting the attendees before the event. There are several ways you can do this. Consider having a dinner for the attendees so they can get to know each other.
Think about incorporating various activities throughout the dinner.
For example, before or during dinner, you could plan a world cafe for your guests. Have them sit at roundtables and team up to talk and solve different problems you’ll present.
Another idea is to make the experience more fun and have some trivia games (you can use a tablet on each table), and encourage tables to compete against each other.
For example, you can have a challenge such as “Guess that song.”
It’s an entertaining activity that guests will most likely enjoy, and a great icebreaker. Obviously, your attendees may feel anxious before dinner; however, this experience will show them that there’s nothing to worry about.
Step #2. Transform your attendees into decision-makers
Usually, your attendees may feel discomfort and distrust during networking events because they aren’t in control of their experience.
You can easily fix that.
How? By allowing your participants decide with whom they want to interact. A good B2B matchmaking platform can help you connect the offer and demand, enabling the attendees to create their own networking agenda.
This way, your guests have the power to schedule short meetings during the event with people they think could be important for their businesses or projects.
Subsequently, their uncertainty levels will decrease (since they’ll know exactly whom they’ll be meeting with), as will their networking anxiety or insecurity.
Step #3. Ensure high-quality B2B networking events
Another reason why people may experience uneasy feelings during the interaction dynamics is the idea of wasting time on people who have nothing to provide.
Think about the events you’ve attended in the past.
How many times during networking events have you felt that the person you were talking to had a hidden agenda, or was just talking to you out of politeness? Have you ever walked out of an event feeling like you wasted your time and your money, and that you didn’t even get what you were searching for?
By positioning your event as a platform that attracts only highly qualified attendees, you’ll eliminate this problem for your guests. Think about the hosted buyers, for example.
Do you think your guests will think your event was a worthless dynamic and a waste of time if they get to meet and engage with people who, for example, are actually interested in their businesses or products?
Step #4. Set up strict parameters for attendee interaction
Another way to eliminate uncertainty is by establishing clear networking parameters. The B2B matchmaking dynamic allows you to create a perfectly controllable environment, excluding all the unpredictable factors.
For example, apart from automatically generating algorithms that will match the offer and the demand, you can decide the time slots and the duration of each B2B interaction.
Apart from that, you can predetermine the topics of these B2B networking dynamics by encouraging your audience to complete a form before the event, asking them what topics they’d like to see covered.
By having everything well-organized and providing your attendees with a thoroughly orchestrated interaction experience, your guests will feel assured knowing that they are completely guided throughout the entire event.
When engaging through strict parameters, your attendees will avoid (to some extent) those pre-networking anxiety jitters because they’ll know exactly where, when, with whom, and how long they’ll interact. It’s as if you’re giving them a networking roadmap to facilitate their journey.
Making your guests feel good during your B2B networking events isn’t easy. You must take several psychological factors into account, and deal with them one by one.
Luckily, you can achieve better results by giving your attendees a sense of control over the networking experience. To make this happen that, you must consider the B2B matchmaking dynamic that allows you to transform your attendees into decision-makers and significantly reduce their uncertainty levels.