10 Tried and True Networking and Icebreaker Activities for Your Corporate Event
Networking is hard. Period. When you are holding a corporate event, you want to make sure that your guests are really getting what they came to your event for: a chance to connect with other people. Luckily, Eat Party Love Events has 10 tried and true networking and icebreaker activities to make your corporate event a success.
Before we start, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the objective of having this activity? Do we want people to start thinking creatively (e.g. for a brainstorming session), to start collaborating, or to simply get to know each other?
- Who is my audience? A roomful of executives will engage with each other differently than a roomful of millennials. Be aware of who your audience is and how they may react to your activity.
- How do I keep this activity simple? Simplicity is the key to engagement. If an activity is too complex, most people will not want to spend the extra effort to do it.
These questions will help you narrow down which tool in this toolkit you should use for your corporate event. We have taken the liberty of breaking the activities down between what works for small (think workshops) vs large (think conferences) events, as well as what works for both.
For Small and Large Events:
1. Snowball Fight
This activity is one of Eat Party Love’s favorites to get everyone energized and engaged. Introduced by Eric de Groot, a strategic meeting activator, it is best in a workshop scenario or an auditorium. Give each attendee a few sheets of paper, ask them to crumple the paper into paper balls, and tell them that it is ammunition and to pick a target. Play some energizing music and tell them to aim and fire. Instant snowball fight and smiles! Watch this activity in action here.
2. Random Fact Find
Before the event, ask your attendees to submit a random fact about themselves that most people would not know. When they register at the event, hand them a random fact that you have collected from a different attendee and tell them that their goal is to match the fact with the right attendee. At the end of the event, if they have matched correctly, they will be gifted a special prize. This fact find gives your attendees an excuse to start conversations with people that they do not know and learn something interesting about their colleagues!
3. Scavenger Hunt
If you have the resources and the time, a full-on scavenger hunt can be a great bonding experience for each of the teams. However, most corporate events are short on both time and resources, so a simpler way to hold a scavenger hunt is to put a comic book character sticker on each attendee’s badge. At registration, give each person a list of comic book characters to search for with the promise that they get a special gift if they manage to find every single one. Attendees will need to show “proof” by taking a picture of themselves with the person with the badge corresponding to the comic book character, which makes for a great excuse to get to know someone.
4. Personalized Name Tag
Before the event, ask each attendee to respond to one of these suggested topics:
- What I want to get out of this event
- How do I take my coffee
- What I do in my spare time
- Number one item on my bucket list
Put each attendee’s answer on his/her respective name tags to wear at the event. This automatically gives other attendees a clue as to what this person may like to talk about, making it easier to start a conversation.
5. Marshmallow Tower Challenge
One of Eat Party Love’s Favorites as a team building exercise that originates from design thinking, the Marshmallow Tower Challenge requires that you split people up into teams of 5 or less. Give the teams 30 minutes to build the highest structure they can with the marshmallow on top with only the following materials: a marshmallow, a ball of string, a roll of tape, and 20 pieces of spaghetti. The team with the tallest standalone structure wins. Then, show them this video to explain why they have done this exercise.
For Small Events:
6. Speed Networking
This activity is great for smaller groups and is reminiscent of speed dating. Break the attendees out into two groups. Seat each group in a row across from each other and announce that they have 2 minutes to get to know each other before Group 1 needs to move to the chair to their left. Continue to rotate Group 1 every 2 minutes until the attendees have come full circle. A great way for people to introduce themselves without the pressure! If you want to lessen the pressure even more, ask each attendee to come up with a 5-word introduction before the event, so that they are prepared.
7. Two Truths, One Lie
A classic game, but always fun, Two Truths, One Lie is pretty self-explanatory. Ask each guest to think of two things that are true about himself/herself and make up one that is not. Each person will need to present all three, and people will try to guess which one is the lie. You can learn many interesting things about your colleagues this way!
8. Celebrity Likeness
Put a picture of different celebrities face-down at each participants’ seat. Going around the room, ask each attendee to flip over the picture and state what they have in common with the celebrity in the picture. Add some unexpected celebrities (e.g. Kermit the Frog or Wiley the Coyote) to spice things up a little!
For Large Events:
9. Competitive Networking
This activity works for large events. Ask your attendees to bring a good number of their business cards to the event, but do not tell them why. At the event, announce that the attendee with the most business cards will win a prize.
10. Selfie Social
Tell your participants that everyone must take 8 different selfies with other guests and give each guest a list of criteria (e.g., someone who is wearing the same color as you or someone whose last name begins with the same letter). Ask your guests to post their selfies using a custom hashtag for a chance to win an instant prize.
These tactics are just some of the ways Eat Party Love Events has created an environment conducive to connecting people. Here are some additional non-activity related tactics to consider:
- Unstructured Networking Time
Give people the opportunity to mingle naturally. Set up a coffee break, happy hour, or a luncheon as part of the event.
- Forging Online Connections
Depending on your budget, there are several ways to help your attendees build connections online, allowing them to connect before, during, and after the event. For example, a custom event hashtag or a private event group on Facebook is a simple way to help generate pre-event buzz. Additionally, it gives people a chance to feel like a part of a community during the event and to keep in touch afterwards. For deeper connections, mobile event apps are available with features like profiles, live polling, messaging, and forums.
Are there any networking activities that have worked for you? Share them in the comments below!