Networking is moving and changing the business sector worldwide.
C-level executives, angel investors, venture capitalists, researchers, and policymakers are getting together to share their expertise and design new, innovative solutions for their current dilemmas.
Depending on different influence levels and connection hubs, people are able to expand their influence and attract like-minded allies for further business development.
Most of the time, these exchanges happen behind closed doors; however, a big part of the “networking ritual” takes place during themed events.
That's why planning an event that will add real value for executives involves the skillful design of the interaction experience. You don’t just run an event and expect people to mingle and talk to each other randomly.
On the contrary, when setting up an event for C-level executives, you must take control and dedicate extra time to reconsidering the entire networking dynamic.
To achieve this goal, you must rethink the impact your event will have on the attendees.
Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
#1. Executives want to expand their influence
One of the main reasons why networking is so important is because it lets different business stakeholders to extend their influence level. The more meaningful relationships they have, the more they can share their worldviews.
Apart from that, being connected to different people gives C-level executives access to the necessary help they need to achieve their business goals.
When planning events for this type of attendees, always remember that the goal of the networking session is not for your guests to discuss mundane topics like the weather, but to actually create a network and increase their influence.
#2. The hubs will always grow bigger
Although the term “hub” is borrowed from networking science, it’s applicable to the business world. According to the definition, “A hub is a node with a number of links that greatly exceeds the average.”
In other words, a hub represents a person or business group that has access to the greatest number of connections (we’ll ignore the super-hubs in this article, although the bigger the hub one represents or identifies with, the greater his or her chances for success).
Having this in mind, always regard your networking events or dynamics as platforms that enable hubs to attract more “satellites” (C-level executives).
#3. The communication must continue after the event
Whether it’s about exchanging favors or agreeing to work on a project together, C-level executives will only consider a networking session successful if they’re able to maintain and grow the business relationships they established during the event.
Sometimes, to make this happen, people from the industry may need the pretext of multiple events where they can meet the same people and gradually build genuine connections.
So how do you get there? How do you achieve this level of mastery and get your attendees to enjoy a truly meaningful networking experience?
Check out the following steps and decide where you want to start.
Step 1. Reduce the distractions and “escape” opportunities
According to business consultant and author Sandra Navidi, one of the main reasons why the World Forum Economic is considered to be the perfect networking pretext for high-level executives, billionaires, and politicians is the lack of “distractions” and the inability to move around the area (Davos) easily.
As the author specifies, “The magic formula is that the village is small, inconvenient to travel to, and hard to navigate. These drawbacks are actually the event’s greatest asset as participants are literally forced to network.”
Obviously, you shouldn’t create adverse conditions for the attendees in hopes they’ll interact better. However, you could conduct some experiments to improve the networking experience.
For example, you could limit the Wi-Fi access or designate specific hours and dynamics for networking—such as B2B matchmaking, which requires a previous agreement upon the one-on-one meetings attendees will have during the event.
Step 2. Mix formal and informal settings
Planning one-on-one business meetings between your attendees or reserving a networking area for them will significantly boost the number of valuable interactions.
However, this is not enough to actually form meaningful relationships.
So apart from providing formal settings for networking, you’ll also want to run some informal dynamics, such as cocktail dinners or business breakfasts.
After a more formal interaction (and having the perfect pretext to get to know each other), the communication will thrive by continuing in a more relaxed environment.
Step 3. Get your attendees to share the same experiences
Apart from the informal networking settings, you’ll also want to provide a more compelling interaction setting by organizing common experiences for your guests.
For example, you could plan a hiking trip or a sightseeing activity (depending on the city or country where you’re running the event).
On the other hand, you can engage your attendees in networking through problem-solving, such as themed workshops, round table discussions, or world cafe dynamics.
Step 4. Combine the meeting design concept and the networking session(s)
According to business consultant Mary Boone, “Meeting Design incorporates methods and technologies that connect, inform and engage a broad range of relevant stakeholders before, during and after a meeting. Good design integrates the meeting with other communication activities, maximizes interactivity and results in a significant return on investment.”
In other words, to enhance the networking experience, it’s important to discover new communication formats (such as tapping into the group’s collective wisdom to solve problems, having attendees walk while talking, engaging the attendees emotionally through storytelling, etc.) that will improve the interaction between the C-level executives.
Step 5. Plan consecutive meeting opportunities
The networking between your attendees shouldn’t end with a unique event that you’ll run and forget all about.
On the contrary, think long term and offer your target group a continuous platform for interaction, meaning different consecutive events where you’ll reunite the people from the industry to give them the opportunity to continue the dialogue, get to know each other better, and subsequently take their business discussions outside the event(s).
Networking is the number one tool people use to gain influence, make an impression, build communities, innovate, and grow their businesses—so don’t take it lightly.
Plus, remember that the interaction between your attendees won’t occur just during the event.
It’s your responsibility to experiment with different interaction methods, carefully design the networking experience, and provide your attendees with quality connections and meaningful dialogues.