September 13, 2023
By John Hunter

Networking events don't have to be stuffy affairs filled with awkward small talk or boring business card exchanges. They can be much, much more. 

Presenting 14 innovative networking event ideas designed to engage, surprise, and inspire deeper business connections. 

But first,

Networking event ideas

What Are Networking Events?

Networking events are organized gatherings aimed at fostering professional and business relationships. They allow attendees to exchange ideas, broaden connections, and discover opportunities. These types of events include: 

  • Business Mixers: Casual, after-hour events for mingling.
  • Conferences and Seminars: Larger events with speakers and networking sessions.
  • Trade Shows: Industry-specific showcases for products or services.
  • Speed Networking: Quick, one-on-one structured interactions.
  • Meal-Based Meetings: Small gatherings over breakfast or lunch to discuss mutual topics.
  • Professional Networking: Regular meet-ups of professional group members.
  • Job Fairs: For companies to recruit and potential employees to network.
  • Alumni Events: School or university alumni meetings. 

These events aim to cultivate meaningful professional relationships that can lead to opportunities like jobs, partnerships, or referrals. 

Fun Fact: According to a LinkedIn survey, over 70% of participants were hired by a company where they had a connection. 

Networking at events

How to Attract People to Networking Events?

Securing the right audience can elevate your event's networking experience. Here's how to enhance attendee quality during event planning

Use a Management System

Identify desired attendee groups, then employ a pairing system for needs and offerings. Incorporate key questions to filter attendees, ensuring only those meeting your event type are approved. 

Seek Past Networking Feedback

Beyond professional qualifications, gauge attendees' interpersonal skills. Use event registration solutions to build a form for asking questions about attendees' past networking insights and their future goals. 

Apply Clear Evaluation Standards

Dedicate time to review submissions using clear evaluation criteria to streamline decisions. Prioritize clarity of objectives in attendee responses. 

Curate Attendee Selection

Build a database of relevant professionals as a foundation for attendee picks. Ensure your event resonates with their interests. 

Adopt Structured Networking

Switch to a B2B matchmaking format. This structured setting, where attendees follow a set agenda, attracts dedicated professionals, guiding them through curated interactions. 

Tips for event networking

14 Must-Try Networking Event Ideas

Presenting 14 must-try ideas packed with practical networking event tips to elevate your next gathering. 

1. Food Stations: Set up distinct stations featuring unique foods, such as donut walls, ice cream bars, or açai bowls. These act as conversation starters, allowing guests to discuss the offerings and naturally transition into deeper conversations, including potential business opportunities. 

2. Badge Station: Designate a table where guests can create custom badges. These badges should display their name, occupation, and company, facilitating immediate introductions and discussions.

3. Games And Icebreakers: Organize interactive games where guests introduce themselves, share interesting facts, or answer questions. These activities alleviate the awkwardness of first-time interactions. 

4. Photo Booths: Set up booths with props and backdrops. They offer a fun networking pivot, allowing guests to connect while sharing light-hearted moments. 

5. Round Tables: Place round tables throughout the venue where groups can discuss specific topics or just network. It promotes face-to-face group discussions.

6. Scavenger Hunts: Organize scavenger hunts where guests form teams to search for items or complete tasks. This encourages teamwork and helps break initial barriers.

7. Well-being Activities: Incorporate activities like yoga or meditation. They offer guests a relaxation break and can also serve as unique networking opportunities in a more relaxed setting. 

8. Rent A Unique Venue: Choosing a venue with a distinct ambiance or view can serve as a conversation starter, amplifying the networking experience. Explore venues with captivating rooftop views or equipped kitchens for culinary-focused networking events. Remember to pick a place that fits everyone you're inviting so everyone has space to mingle and connect. 

9. Silent Disco: Silent discos offer a unique twist to networking, letting attendees groove to their tunes in a serene setting. If conversations beckon, slip off the headphones. The vibrant headset lights elevate the ambiance, fostering spirited chats. Organize this by renting the required equipment, selecting a venue, and serving drinks. 

10. Trivia Night: Trivia nights blend fun with professional insights. Attendees answer various work and general knowledge questions, potentially unveiling insights about the company or ongoing projects. Organize this in a suitable space, inviting professionals from different firms to amplify networking opportunities. Whether answering as groups or solo, trivia sessions enhance camaraderie and knowledge sharing.

11. Luncheon:  Everyone appreciates a hearty meal, and luncheons combine dining with networking. Engage an event planner and caterer to curate a menu with popular dishes. This event aims for employees to mingle over delicious fare. Consider adding a keynote speaker, stimulating further discussions post-speech. 

12. Workshops: Workshops double as skill-building and networking events. Attendees enhance specific skills or acquire new knowledge while connecting over shared interests. Plan one around a central topic, incorporating presentations and hands-on activities. Workshops emphasize team collaboration and offer a productive networking space, delivering knowledge and interpersonal connections.

13. Themed Party: People enjoy dressing the part, making themed parties delightful networking avenues. Common interests become evident through matching outfits and sparking conversations. Decide on a theme, from eras to industry-relevant periods, and have an event planner bring it to life. Popular themes might include murder mystery, ugly sweater parties, or 90s nostalgia. Ensure a spread of food and drinks to keep the chatter flowing. 

14. Pottery Workshops: Pottery is calming and creative, making it a top pick for close-knit creative networking events. Schedule these workshops after work or during special events. It's hands-on and lets everyone learn a craft with expert help.

To make it smooth, invite a pottery pro to guide the session, whether in the office or another excellent spot. Set up individual or team stations so everyone can appreciate each other's work. Afterward, everyone gets to keep what they made—a fun reminder of the time spent together. Plus, the relaxing vibe of pottery often sparks deeper conversations, helping teams bond as they create together. 

Networking at events

Moving Beyond Business Cards

Networking doesn't have to be a chore or a mere business ritual. With creativity and this blog's innovative ideas, you can elevate any networking event into a memorable, enriching experience. 

From food stations that tempt the taste buds to pottery sessions that calm the soul, there's a world of possibilities to explore. The aim? Foster a setting where real connections thrive. 

So, next time you're planning a networking event, think outside the traditional box and consider some of these fun, engaging ideas. After all, the best business relationships often grow from shared experiences and authentic interactions. 

John Hunter

John Hunter

John is the Senior Manager of Event Cloud Content Marketing at Cvent. He has 11 years of experience writing about the meetings and events industry. John also has extensive copywriting experience across diverse industries, including broadcast television, retail advertising, associations, higher education, and corporate PR.

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