As you organize upcoming corporate events, you spend a lot of time coming up with strategies to encourage your attendees to talk to each other and form business and personal connections. In fact, every portion of your schedule can impact how much networking occurs, including meal times.
In this blog, we list five ways that your menu choices can encourage your attendees to chat, laugh and bond.
1. Clique Breakers
At large events, it's easy for individuals to stay with the group of people they know. To encourage networking, you must find ways to break individuals away from these cliques. Food stations or a buffet table can serve this purpose.
For either of these menu styles, most groups break apart to get the food they're most interested in. At food stations, attendees may choose to stay and chat with people who share their food preferences. In a buffet, attendees are likely to start conversations and ask people they connect with to join their group at a table.
You can also encourage cliques to separate by avoiding table-based meals. Instead, have beverages and hors d'oeuvres served throughout a meeting hall while your attendees walk around and mingle.
2. Comfort Zones
While you want your attendees to leave their social comfort zones, you don't want to make them too uncomfortable. For many people, finger foods can become a comfort item of sorts. For example, holding and drinking a beverage provides a natural excuse for conversation breaks.
Finger foods, bagged snacks and drinks can all give your attendees the confidence to hold long, in-depth conversations essential to effective networking.
3. Conversation Starters
Networking conversations have to start somewhere and food works well as a jumping off point, especially when your menu includes unique items. Consider special hors d'oeuvres that bring something new to the table.
These food items could be fresh twists on old classics or something new for your attendees to love. For example, spice up deviled eggs with a sriracha twist or choose sushi over more conventional meal options.
A long day of meetings and collaboration can make networking a little lackluster. For many people, a snack or beverage can provide enough energy and refreshment to save a conversation. If you have a morning event, provide a range of energizing foods and beverages, from coffee to yogurt and granola.
If you're hosting an all-day event, consider providing bottled beverages and bagged snacks. Provide healthy choices, such as fruit juice and nuts in addition to classic choices like soft drinks and chips. Keeping your attendees full throughout the day improves the overall mood and encourages pleasant and meaningful conversation.
5. Tie-Ins to Meetings
Even if the focus of your event is on networking, you likely have a keynote speaker, seminars or other side meetings. One of the best ways to ensure that the information conveyed in these meetings becomes part of your attendees' conversations is by tying it in throughout the day.
Your tie-ins can be as simple or creative as you want, as long as they make your guests think about the meetings. For example, if you have a keynote speaker who talks about "staying afloat" in the business world, your menu could include "life preservers" made up of doughnuts, cookies or breads.
Use these methods to ensure that your corporate guests leave your next event with new contacts and increased motivation.
If you want a specific tone or theme at your business event, talk to McHale’s Catering about your goals. McHale’s Catering can consider specific factors, like your venue and event purpose to make personalized suggestions for improving how your attendees interact.