Think back to your first middle school dance. Let me guess…the boys were on one side of the room, girls were on the other. Everyone feels awkward, but no one has the guts to do anything about it. Years later, this same type of situation still happens in the business world. As an event planner, you want your employees/guests to feel welcomed and able to speak to people they don’t know. Here’s a few tips to help you get people talking!
1. Set up the seating like you would set up your living room. The seating at an event does more than you think for your guests! Putting chairs in a circle or seating furniture close to each other basically lends itself to the start of conversations.
2. Bring in the pro’s! Designate a few people to start small talk. If people don’t feel relaxed and welcomed when they first arrive, chances are they won’t mingle later on. Be on the lookout for people who are by themselves and ask them questions like, “Who are you hoping to meet? What are you hoping to learn?”
3. Use icebreakers. If done correctly (meaning don’t pick the cheesy ones), icebreakers can be really fun and beneficial! Try to find ones that will bring out people’s personalities and get people out of their shell. Here are a few icebreakers that are fun and creative to use for your events: 10 Ice Breakers To Kick Off Your Conference.
4. Keep people busy. People like to have a distraction from figuring out the perfect thing to say to someone. Do activities like crafts, because “pass me the scissors” is a way better conversation starter than talking about what the weather is like. Also having events that don’t require a lot of focus or concentration (aka more relaxed) allows more opportunity for conversation.
5. Offer food. Food brings people together! Station it in one place so everyone will be near each other. Everyone will want to talk about “who made that appetizer?”
6. Play music. Even if it isn’t music, some sort of background noise makes the event a little less awkward. Silence is deafening sometimes and can make the situation seem too intense. Even if it is a more serious event, the music takes the edge off!