It happens at every event. The attendees that attend every year get excited to see each other and want to hang out together. The new attendees are then left in the cold and could have trouble making the connections that will keep them coming back to your event.
This is a hard problem to address because it’s so understandable. And do you really want to prevent people from reconnecting with their old friends?
However, if you do address this issue, your new attendees will have a great reason to return, and you can deepen your regular attendees experience at your event by expanding their network.
Here are a few ways we think you can get rid of the cliques at your next event:
Online Networking Ahead of the Event
The best idea is to start the work ahead of the event, and luckily, social networks are a great tool to help you.
One path is to host Twitter chats leading up to your event. Ask speakers to be guests to answer your attendees’ questions on their topics or you can try for some other type of education. Keeping these education-based will make your attendees more likely to participate since they will be getting something out of it. They are then more likely to meet other attendees in a rather informal setting and will then have people that they want to meet in person at the actual event.
You can also create a Facebook group around your event. Ask icebreaker questions in the group (as well as giving event information), and your attendees will start creating relationships around previously unknown common ground. And once again, they are more likely to come into your event with people that they want to meet in person.
When you get to the event, if you are looking to integrate new attendees in a seamless manner, create an attendee mentorship program. Connect each first time attendee with a long-time attendee that can show them the ins-and-outs of your event.
This mentorship program rewards your long-time attendees by making them feel special. You’ve singled them out and told them that they are important to you just by making the ask. They are more likely to bring them into their group of friends and make those new attendees feel extremely welcome.
A Networking Game
The best way to make attendees meet new people at your event is to make a game out of it. You can create a game out of simply meeting people, but we think people are more likely to participate in a meaningful way when your motives are hidden.
Try an Amazing Race-style game where your attendees have to complete tasks along pit stops through your networking event. Have fun prizes at the end that are connected to their wants and needs in some way to motivate them to participate. Since each attendee works at different paces with different skill sets, the cliques will naturally fall away in favor of winning. And although they may eventually go back to their cliques, the brief encounters during such a game would be enough of an opening for new attendees to gain entry into the groups at your event.
We really like using a venue like the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum for a networking event like this. The multiple rooms create great opportunities for pit stop games as you take your attendees deeper into the museum, and the active nature of the museum means that you can tie the pit stop games to baseball and teach your attendees more about the game’s history and importance to the city of Cincinnati.
It can be difficult to integrate new attendees into the many groups your long-time attendees have created, but with a little work, the results can be worth it.