Event luncheons can be one of the best opportunities you have for fostering networking. At event luncheons, people have a chance to let their hair down and spend a bit more time talking and getting to know the other people sharing a meal with them. You could just leave it up to chance and hope that everyone uses the opportunity to best advantage, or you could come up with some fun icebreakers that really get people talking and interacting.

Why You Should Use Icebreakers

Icebreakers can get people talking to one another, but should be used in a mindful way that engages them with a purpose. Have you ever participated in one of those senseless icebreakers that forces you to run around the room and match up unrelated statistics? We have, too, and we didn’t like it either.

Instead, you should choose an icebreaker that helps with your goal for the event. So, if you are getting together a group of IT specialists for a conference and you want to get them networking with one another, you might set up some cards on the table that have a series of questions they should go through, such as, “What is the most difficult part of keeping your infrastructure current?”

Pointed questions that relate to the theme of the conference or industry will go a long way toward getting people talking about topics that matter to them and possibly even finding solutions to those problems as they gain insight from others in the industry.

Some Ideas for Fostering Networking at Event Lunches

There are many different ways you can engage luncheon participants without completely disrupting your luncheon. Here are a few ideas:

  • Set up tables that focus on a specific topic, speaker, location, etc. Clearly label each table, so attendees know where they are sitting.
  • Place trivia cards on the table, but make sure they are related to the industry or conference theme.
  • Appoint a leader or volunteer to each table to facilitate conversation and introductions. This person should be willing to point out how networking can benefit different parties at the table. For example, “Mary, you had the same problem with your infrastructure last year. Would you mind sharing with Joel how you resolved the issue?”
  • Play Claim to Fame with the focus on career. So, each person around the table would share what their Claim to Fame is at work, what awards they’ve won, where they got their education, what their future goals are, etc.
  • Draw Your Life is a good game to play to get to know those around the table. Since everyone is likely in the same career, this can help you get to know one another on a personal level. You’ll need small paper flip charts and markers. Each person gets three minutes to draw as many objects as he can that represent his life. For example, he might draw an outline of the state of Texas to show where he is from and a house with a family of three to show he is married with one child.
  • If your luncheon is like most event luncheons, you may not have assigned seating for the majority of attendees. What tends to happen is that people will sit with those they already know, leaving newbies sitting awkwardly alone at a table. To mix things up a bit, tape a letter to the bottom of each bread plate on the table. Once everyone is seated, ask them to find their letter and move to the table that matches (have small tent letters on each table).

These are just a few of the icebreakers you can use. Think about what you want your attendees to get from the event and see what other ideas you can come up with.

An ice breaker helps those attending your event who might not be particularly extroverted and makes sure that everyone at the luncheon is involved and taking advantage of networking opportunities.

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