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Networking ideas for conferences

14th February 2019
Conference breakout space

Large conferences involve months of planning.  As an event planner you want your attendees to get the most out of your event. They’ve committed to a conference or symposium in order to learn more about their industry, as well as to meet like-minded people to share and enrich their knowledge. Without a doubt, the spreading of ideas is key to a conference and one of the best ways to do this is to network.

When planning a conference with networking time in the schedule, choosing a suitable venue within your budget is crucial.

Above all be certain your conference venue meets these criteria:

  • Make sure it suits the feel of your conference.
  • You need to choose a venue that’s big enough hold a large audience and one that can cater for multiple speakers.
  • You also need to ensure it has spaces for smaller workshops or training sessions.
  • Additionally, you should make sure the venue has a suitable, spacious breakout space that you can use for delegate networking.

Decide what style venue will suit the theme of your conference; a symposium on ancient history may feel more authentic in a historical building such as Senate House, whereas a science conference might sit better in a modern space. Ultimately, this is subjective and most likely will be dictated by your brand. Find out how to organise your next networking event to perfection, with our top tips.

Beveridge hall at senate house conference set-up

Networking at conferences for small groups 

Try to facilitate networking opportunities at every stage of your conference, whether it’s at registration or during a refreshment break.

At your next conference, why not set up a ‘buddy system’ between delegates before they arrive. This means that those attendees studying the same subject or working on the same topic for their paper can start the networking process before they even come to the conference.

Pre-conference training courses are a tried and tested networking success. Hold workshops for skills your delegates may be lacking, such as research methods for academic conference attendees. This will draw a good number of like-minded people who really benefit from sharing ideas and knowledge with each other; networking at its best.

To help people make the most of a networking opportunity at an impromptu point throughout the day, why not organise a ‘brain date’. This sort of networking can be organised via the signup process or through an event app if you have one. Find out more about the best event apps for networking at your next event. Participants can make offers and requests for knowledge on topics that most interest them and then will be matched together. Once at the event, they know at some point to suit them they can get together for a brain date, or knowledge sharing session.

Small group at conference

Conference activities for large groups 

You may think that planning team building icebreakers isn’t relevant to a conference setting. However, to engage and motivate attendees, some ice breaking activities will do wonders for the networking mindset of your delegates.

You can do this with the basics, such as by providing conversation starters on everyone’s name badges. Not knowing where to start is a big conversation blocker and can really slow down the networking process. Including a phrase such as ‘I’m looking for…’ or ‘Ask me about…’ so you provide everyone with a natural follow in, providing ready-made engagement.

A common hurdle that event organisers often stumble over is creating the right atmosphere. People are often disengaged or simply unsure how to network. After all, it’s a learned skill and a tough one to master. A great way to really draw in a motivated crowd at your next conference event is to think outside the box and mix up the format.

Icebreaker games for large groups

You can help break down barriers by providing some gentle (or more extreme!) icebreaking activities such as these for large groups:

If you’ve tried indoor events in the past and you need something a little more extreme to make your attendees feel at ease, then why not try a different event format altogether.

The Solution Room icebreaker

Why not try a networking activity such as ‘the solution room’? This can work with a very large group of people (think hundreds) or with medium sized gatherings of say 10 or more. This icebreaker activity can last up to two hours and enables peer supported advice for particular challenges people may be facing within their particular field.

The idea is that each person considers a specific challenge they are facing. The group is then divided into groups of 6-8 to discuss the problem. Each person presents their problem and the group brainstorm solutions. Groups sit at tables with paper cloth coverings, on which they can brainstorm ideas to reach a conclusion.

The Dynamic icebreaker

For a real crowd pleaser and ideal for a post lunch boost, to combat fatigue or burn out, why not stage a dynamic icebreaker. See this idea instigated at a TedX talk by Eric de Groot aims to show how easy it is to change people’s behaviour with simple persuasion and a group activity.

Get your delegates to create paper balls, from sheets of paper on their chairs. They then simply throw them at a target with music in the background.  You even get people to write down some fun facts about themselves, or perhaps a challenge they’ve faced.

group activity networking

Conference networking event at Senate House

Are you thinking ahead to your next conference? Senate House has a variety of venues suitable for large scale speaker sessions, networking icebreakers or small group engagement sessions.

Our large-scale spaces such as Beveridge Hall are ideally suited for keynote invited talks, whilst our meeting rooms are perfect for training sessions and icebreaker games. Our foyer and crush hall spaces provide elegant backdrops for downtime and reenergising.

Get in touch with our conference team today to find out how they can work with you to make your next conference abuzz with networking opportunities and happy delegates. Get in touch via email on, chat to them on 020 7862 8127 or make a quick online enquiry.

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