When Josh Strebel of Pagely first thought about hosting Pressnomics, his main concern was how to transform the productive hallway conversations he’d had at other conferences from afterthought into happening. While a conference of hallway conversations only is impossible, striving for greater attendee interaction is almost never a bad thing.
As Al Pittampalli discusses in a blog post, the serendipity required to achieve indirect collaboration or spontaneous hallway conversations can’t be manufactured, but it can be fostered. While direct collaboration has a roadmap — which requires leadership — the kind of indirect, yet often often more important over the long term, interaction most conferences seek don’t happen often enough.
But if hallway conversations are an integral part of events, but can’t be directly planned or scheduled, how do event planners go about fostering them?
If event planners want their attendees to interact, start by giving them plenty of places to do so. We don’t mean just one lounge in a room removed from the main events, but rather chairs placed to the side in the main area. Add some tables, maybe make some food available nearby, and you’ll have people chatting in no time.
Most deep hallway conversations usually require internet access so participants can compare notes, show developments, or share other relevant (digital or otherwise) material. Keep that WiFi fast and open in your main areas.
Five minutes between scheduled sessions is barely long enough for a few guys to hit the bathroom, and it’s even worse for most women. Try giving 15-25 minutes for passing time and see what people do with it. If most people are seated before the next session starts, shorten the time next go around.
Be an example
Too many event planners end up with staff or employees that shy away from public conversations, either about the event itself or anything industry related. Hiding out from attendees sets a bad example, and we’d like to see more event staff participate in hallway conversations not only to provide a great example, but to better be able to understand attendee needs.
See you between sessions.