Event organizers try to come up with new ways all the time to help attendees have more fun — or at least be more effective — in their networking efforts. While not all of these are “games” per se, they do deviate from the normal mixer-style that most networking events adopt. Are all of them effective? Well, as you might guess, some yes, some no, and many are dependent on who is doing the networking. Let’s take a look at a few of them, what they are, and how best to prepare, if possible.

  • Speed networking: Similar in concept to speed dating, you’re usually seated along a long table facing another attendee. The actual amount of time can vary, but usually you’ve got three minutes (90 seconds each) to get to know the person across from you. At the end of the time one or the other side of the table moves one seat to the left (or right). Personally I like this activity because it gives me a chance to meet people who would otherwise associate only with their friends or not at all. In order to prepare, you should have a very brief description of yourself and your goals. You want them to have a chance to get to know you, not just your business. If possible, be the first person asking questions. This allows you to ask the questions of them that you will want them to ask of you.
  • Ten word cards or Pass the mic. This is the opportunity for each person in the crowd to stand up and tell a very brief blurb about themselves. Some events limit it by the number of words, others limit it by time. It may or may not be followed up with mixer-style mingling. This can be a good process if you are prepared. The challenge is to say something meaningful in that short amount of time. To that end, if you know that the event includes an activity like this, always, always, always prepare your statement ahead of time. Unless you are comfortable with improv, at best you can hope to be boring. The worst that can happen is that you start rambling. Breaking the unwritten rule of keeping it short will not endear you to anyone.
  • Scavenger hunt. These activities work to encourage you to circulate around the event and find out more about the sponsor or sponsors of the gathering. While primarily for the benefit of those sponsors, you can use time waiting in line to chat up those around you. This has the benefit that it naturally limits the amount of time you will spend with any given person. Preparing for this is just like preparing for any other networking event. Be ready to ask questions and be interested in other people.
While sometimes these games can feel a little silly or put you out of your comfort zone, participating in them can really help you extend your networking practice — if you approach them with the right attitude. If nothing else, you should hone your skills at these activities so that the next time one of them comes up, it won’t throw you off your game.
Tomorrow, some more games that work and one that didn’t work so well.

Photo credit: Mark & Marie Finnern