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  1. Blog
  2. Networking
  3. January 4, 2023

8 Realistic Networking Activities You’ll Actually Enjoy

Never have I ever… enjoyed networking this much

Coworkers enjoying a networking activity
Photo courtesy of Yan Krukau

Some people would say that networking activities are inherently awkward. And if we’re being honest, they are!

Networking usually revolves around initiating a relationship with someone you don’t know—such as a potential employer or distant coworker you don’t work with much—to get something you want, so it might feel transactional. But it doesn't have to, especially if you choose networking activities that people actually enjoy. 

When you’re trying to decide which networking activities people will want to participate in, ask yourself three questions first: 

1. Who are you bringing together? 

How many people will be participating and what is their relationship? Do they already have some knowledge of each other or are they meeting for the first time? Understand your group, what their relationship is, and what might interest them. 

2. What is the goal of the networking activity? 

Are you trying to build trust? Make introductions? Create dialogue? Consider what you are trying to achieve to choose the most appropriate networking activity. 

3. How much time do you have? 

Do you have at least one hour to explain the activity, get the group into it, then highlight the key takeaways? Or, are you limited to a 30-minute window over a lunch break? Some networking activities are more detailed (and therefore, more time-consuming), while others are quick ways to break the ice.

As you work through these questions, you may find that there’s overlap in your answers. For example, your goal for the networking activity might be to build trust, make introductions, and create dialogue. The great thing about networking is that it doesn't have to meet one goal or serve one group; and if it goes off the rails, you can act like that was always part of the plan.

Each of these activities is designed to give you the flexibility to pull off a great networking activity that people genuinely enjoy.  

8 realistic networking activities you’ll actually enjoy  

1. Speed networking

You've heard of speed dating, but have you ever tried to introduce yourself, give your elevator pitch, and spark a stimulating professional conversation in three minutes or less?

Speed networking is a fun way to maximize time and challenge your participants while getting them to engage with one another. In speed networking, participants might have three to five minutes or less to meet with individuals at the event, rotating into a new session as soon as that time is up. As the coordinator of the event, you will need to make sure everyone rotates on time to keep the event going. 

Why people enjoy it:

Due to the quick rotation between sessions, participants have no choice but to get to the point! Speed networking cuts back on small talk and helps people get to know one another in ways that are actually important. Plus, quickly meeting new people—or meeting old people in a new way—offers an adrenaline rush that makes the activity more fun! 

2. Social media swap

Here’s how this one works: Have your participants get into pairs. Each person will share one of their social media handles with the other person, then describe how that platform has helped or informed their career in some way. For example, one person might share their LinkedIn profile with the other, then briefly describe a helpful post they used to negotiate their last job offer. In return, their counterpart might share their TikTok account and show a recent video that includes remote work tips they have found useful.

Why people enjoy it: 

Social media has become a staple in professional networking. Everything from finding new job opportunities to chatting directly with hiring managers takes place on social media, so many of your participants will enjoy tapping into a fun, relevant way to connect with their new contacts. For your participants who don't have social media, this activity could give them a peek at some useful guidance they don’t usually get to see. These folks can share the best career advice they've ever received in lieu of sharing a social media handle.

3. Escape room

You may be familiar with the escape room experience as a good team-building activity, but it works just as well for networking. Nothing inspires people to get to know one another like having to work together to break out of a room. This activity works best for smaller groups of 10 people or less, so larger teams can be assigned to two or more escape rooms to avoid an overcrowded experience. Your participants can socialize while they interpret the clues and work toward making it to the other side.

Why people enjoy it:

A password on the bottom of a lamp? A secret passageway? A door key in a hidden lockbox? When it comes to escape rooms, you never know what you’re going to find! The mystery of it all is enticing, but it’s also a great bonding activity and bonding is central to effective networking. People also enjoy the challenge of correctly putting the pieces together for the ultimate reward: breaking out! Whether your participants are meeting for the first time or getting reacquainted, they will enjoy the escape room as a networking activity because they have a shared mission, are up against the clock, and can learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses in the process.   

4. “Never have I ever”

If you’ve ever played this game, you know just how risqué it can get. As each person states something aloud that they have never done, the remaining participants raise one finger or hand to indicate that they have indeed done that act. With a professional twist, “Never have I ever” is an entertaining way to find out just how daring the people you work with have gotten in their careers. And if you want to take it up a notch? Have one participant who has done the daring deed give a bit of backstory. Here are a few examples of prompts you can use for this activity at your next networking event:

Never have I ever…

  • Quit a job without giving two weeks’ notice

  • Worked an unusual job 

  • Switched careers

  • Forgotten a coworker’s name while introducing them

  • Had an embarrassing moment at work

  • Worked two jobs at once

  • Taken career advice from TikTok

  • Gotten a job in a bizarre way

  • Lied in a job interview

Why people enjoy it: 

You can't help but feel closer to the people who now know about some of the boldest career moves you’ve ever made! Participants will learn some pretty cool things about the other attendees that people don't talk about enough. People will love this game as a networking activity because it opens the door for further conversation after the event, e.g., Hi, I heard you mention earlier that you’ve switched careers before, and I’m hoping to do the same within the next year. Can we meet for coffee next week so I can hear more about your experience switching careers? 

5. Brainstorming session 

Sometimes referred to as a roundtable discussion or open discussion, this networking activity isn’t just another meeting to attend. In fact, it’s a much less contrived way to get people talking, thinking, and networking. A brainstorming session is an opportunity for people from different teams and backgrounds to offer their thoughts on a specific topic. For example, you could base the activity around an issue that affects the company, such as what the new logo should be, or a broader question, such as whether a four-day workweek should become an option for employees. 

The key to making this activity fun is to steer clear of controversial or political topics. If there are no pressing questions you’d like to ask that are related to the company, ask questions about the last Netflix movie everyone binge-watched and why others should watch it or what song each person would choose for their personal “theme music” and why. 

What makes this networking activity is the free-flowing, unstructured nature of the conversation, so unless the discussion becomes harmful or unproductive, feel free to let your participants go wherever the talk takes them. Step up the utility of this event by taking notes during the discussion, then creating a list or infographic that showcases the thoughts people shared about cool music, must-see movies, self-care ideas, or other useful takeaways that only participants will have access to. 

Why people enjoy it: 

Traditional networking activities can sometimes be a bit stuffy, so participants often wish they had more creative ways to show a different side of themselves while networking. With this fun brainstorming session, participants will get the chance to show their personality and be themselves while displaying important professional traits, such as how they reason and make decisions, carry a conversation, and engage with others in a real-world discussion. Whether your participants are at the networking event to meet someone who can help advance their career or they’re looking for someone to take under their wing, they will get a lot out of this networking activity. 

6. Happy hour or “sip and see”

They don’t call it “happy hour” for nothing! A more casual networking activity where attendees can enjoy a drink of their choice in a social setting (preferably where there’s something interesting to “see,” such as a museum or art show) can actually help people feel more at ease and put their best foot forward. 

While this type of networking activity doesn’t require a strict itinerary, create some structure around it to help everyone enjoy themselves and get as much as they can out of the experience. Here’s what that might look like:

  • Develop a loose itinerary that outlines what attendees can expect but doesn't dictate how they spend every minute

  • Secure a designated space, such as a meeting room or rooftop, within a bar, restaurant, or hotel

  • Curate an appetizer and drink menu; include non-alcoholic drinks and spirits

  • Offer rules of engagement with the invitation, then reiterate them at the top of the event (e.g., be respectful of everyone’s choice to drink responsibly or not drink at all) 

  • Designate someone as a moderator who can make brief announcements, chat up wallflowers, and keep things moving along

Why people enjoy it:

The appeal of happy hour or “sip and see” is more than just getting to enjoy your favorite drink; people like the idea of letting their hair down a bit while networking. While happy hour networking should still have a professional undertone, the socialization that it provides in a more relaxed environment is what draws people in and helps them enjoy the event. Take this activity to the next level by turning it into a full-on paint and sip, where attendees can network, enjoy a drink, and create a work of art. 

7. Service project

Community service provides a great backdrop for bonding and giving back, but it also offers a great networking opportunity. If there’s a special cause, project, or initiative your company wants to assist with, you can rally support for the cause while helping your group get some networking in. This is an especially apt way to get people networking if your company has a renewed corporate social responsibility, or CSR, focus. For instance, InfoTrust—an Ohio-based marketing company that topped InHerSight’s 50 Best Companies to Work For—partners with local companies every year to create Thanksgiving food baskets for families in need. 

You can incorporate other community service projects into your networking activity, such as:

  • Collecting new feminine hygiene products for women in need

  • Starting a community garden

  • Cleaning up a local neighborhood

  • Assisting with a blood drive

  • Putting together care packages for children at a hospital

Get started by having attendees introduce themselves and their roles and share a short or long-term career goal they have with the group. Throughout the event, encourage them to exchange contact information with at least one person they haven’t worked with yet. If your service project is field-based, consider hosting an after-hours networking mixer for all the individuals who contribute to the service project; this way, participants can focus on service for the first half of the day, then step up their networking game for the second half. 

Why people enjoy it:

The goal of this networking activity is not to take the focus off of service, but instead to create a dual purpose: networking while giving back. Your coworkers will enjoy positively impacting the community while initiating professional relationships, discovering how they can collaborate with their colleagues to advance their careers or build skills, and participating in a project that can serve as a great resume-builder. 

8. Guest speaking engagement

Picture this: a TED Talk, but in a smaller setting with the people you work with. This type of networking activity can serve as a great professional development opportunity for all participants and help them become stronger networkers, especially if the guest speaker covers a networking topic, such as how to become a better conversationalist. The trick here is to select an engaging speaker who can get the audience into the topic of choice, inspire them to consider a new perspective, and help them feel energized about schoomizing afterward.  

After the speaking engagement concludes, your participants can network with each other (and the guest speaker). This can be a virtual networking event or in-person and you can host it on-site at work or at an event space—in any case, your participants are sure to enjoy themselves. 

Why people enjoy it: 

Kicking off the event with a guest speaker ensures that everyone will have at least one thing to talk about. In fact, most (if not all) of your participants will break the ice in their conversations by asking “so what’d you think of the speaker?” But this built-in conversation starter is just one reason why people love this networking activity. What’s more, people can hear from an industry expert or thought leader about how to think critically, improve some area of their personal or work lives, or better understand a niche social topic.

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