Conversation. Connection. Opportunity.

Separately, these three words might seem like abstract concepts. But together, they’re key ingredients in the recipe for effective networking. 

Whether it be career advice during happy hour or an exchange of ideas over lunch, networking opportunities are an essential part of any successful event. The only problem? Professional connections don’t make themselves.

Attendees often need a little encouragement, especially at in-person networking events. And with many event planners returning to the in-person format in 2023, facilitating connection is a challenge they’ll soon have to face.

Let’s talk about why networking is essential, the advantages of in-person networking opportunities, and what you can do to break the ice at your next event.

The power of networking

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

Whether you believe that old saying or not, professional networking is important. In fact, networking is the biggest reason why people attend events, according to Skift. That said, networking opportunities can mean something a little different depending on the context. 

For instance, B2B networking is very different from B2C. At a B2B event, attendees are focused on making new professional connections and nurturing existing business relationships.

During a B2C event, on the other hand, attendees are more interested in finding personal connections (i.e., making new friendships with like-minded people). 

What’s also important to remember is how event planners stand to gain from networking opportunities vs. how attendees might benefit themselves.

Here are a few reasons why effective networking is important from an event planner’s perspective:


Networking gets people in the door. As previously mentioned, it’s the leading reason why people register for events in the first place.


82% of event planners say that engagement is a crucial performance indicator. Aside from entertainment and the regular ebb and flow of event content, networking keeps attendees engaged as much as possible.

Lead generation

Event professionals benefit by putting themselves front and center with their target audience. This allows them to nurture the customer relationship at pivotal points in the buyer’s journey. Even a simple conversation can go a long way toward building brand affinity.


83% of brands say event marketing consistently increases their sales, according to Visme. Why? Because events are where brands and potential customers have an opportunity to meet, interact, and close deals. 

Here’s why networking is important from an attendee’s perspective:

Professional development

Networking allows attendees to share ideas, advice, and other nuggets of knowledge that can help them advance in their careers.

New connection

Regardless if it’s a personal connection or a professional relationship, networking brings people closer together. Whereas one attendee might make a long-lasting friend, another may plant the seed for a significant business partnership.

Job opportunity

85% of open positions are filled through networking, according to a report from Hubspot and shared by FinancesOnline. No matter how the job opportunity arises, professional connections are forged from engaging events.

Why in-person networking still matters

In today’s digital age, event planners might wonder why virtual networking wouldn’t be the end-all, be-all format for networking opportunities moving forward. Why bother facilitating in-person connection when you can so easily expand your professional network over the internet?

It’s a good question that has a fairly easy answer: There’s simply no replacing the nuances of in-person networking and face-to-face interaction. Yes, you can replicate some of the experience in a virtual meeting or video conference, but there’s nothing quite like traditional facetime.

Most importantly, the majority of professionals tend to agree. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 95% of respondents agree that in-person meetings are both key to successful long-term business relationships and building new ones. Also, 89% agree that face-to-face interactions are essential for “sealing the deal.”

Simply put, in-person networking opportunities are information-rich. Participants pick up more details during a face-to-face conversation than they would in a virtual meeting. They gain the benefit of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other visual signals.

All told, in-person networking has its distinct advantages:

  • Facial expressions and other context clues help attendees avoid misunderstandings and overcome cultural barriers.
  • Attendees can establish a better rapport, take advantage of social opportunities, and showcase their personality in person more effectively than they would online.
  • When participants meet face to face, they’re more likely to make a lasting, memorable impression. This is essential for building a new connection, whether it be a professional relationship or a personal friendship.

In-person vs. virtual networking

Networking opportunities at virtual or hybrid events have the benefit of being able to include a wider audience. This means that connections aren’t limited to the attendees physically present at the event. What’s also helpful is that attendees can expand their professional network from the comfort of their own homes—no need to travel to a venue or book a hotel.

Despite these unique advantages, 90% of exhibitors prefer in-person networking rather than virtual, according to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. It can be difficult to keep someone focused during a virtual meeting, as there are often more distractions to worry about.

In contrast, in-person networking opportunities normally have fewer things competing for an attendee’s attention, thus making it easier to stay engaged and develop the relationship.

However, event planners would be mistaken to think that they need to choose one format over the other. Why not make the best of both worlds? In our experience, the most successful in-person events include virtual elements—networking included.

How to encourage effective networking at an in-person event

Networking may be important, but it certainly isn’t easy. You want the conversation to flow as naturally as possible at your next event. 

To help you get started, here are some tried-and-true strategies to get your attendees talking, connecting, and networking in person:

Choose an appropriate venue

Venues influence many important aspects of your event, especially networking. Make sure your location has plenty of space for attendees to break out and hold a conversation. You don’t want people shouting over loud music or fighting for elbow room in a crowded place. 

Make sure attendees feel comfortable

Safety is a hot topic as in-person events return to prominence. Consider how attendees might feel when they’re participating in a networking event. Make sure you have enough space for participants to keep their distance if they’d like to, and consider setting up hand sanitizer stations so they can safely shake hands. 

Leverage a custom event app

Even in-person events can take advantage of virtual event technology. Branded mobile apps, for instance, can help you bridge the gap and foster connection. Attendees can create their own profiles within the app, allowing them to seamlessly connect with one another, share information over private messages, and organize a meetup. Think of it like their own digital business card.

Break the ice with gamification

Gamification allows you to inject a little friendly fun into the event experience. Whether it be a group scavenger hunt or a trivia night, you can help attendees get to know one another while they work toward a common goal. Or, turn networking into a competition by awarding participants who make the most connections.

Hold fun, interactive networking sessions

Happy hours, workshops, dinner parties—the possibilities are endless. Just make sure your activities align with your event’s theme and make sense for your target audience. 

Take the next step with Webex Events

If you aren’t factoring networking opportunities into your agenda, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to engage attendees and foster important business relationships. 

Luckily, Webex Events makes it easy to encourage networking at your event. With immersive games, interactive tools, custom mobile apps, and more, you’ll gain everything you need to take networking to the next level. Request a demo to learn more about Webex Events.