Encourage Networking at Your Next Conference with Collaborative Learning

It’s a commonly known fact that most people struggle with networking. For whatever reason, people tend to view networking at events as a necessary evil rather than an engaging conversation.

In fact, a 2015 Harvard Business School study suggested that networking actually made participants feel ‘dirty’. The experiment split a group of 360 into 4, asking each group to recall specific memories with either a personal or professional benefit. The participants were then asked to complete a series of word fragments (ie. SH _ _ ER or W _ _ H). Those that had recalled intention networking were twice as likely to come up with cleansing words.

The results from this suggest that networking is not an activity that many enjoy. However, with almost 85% of jobs being filled through networking, it is something that is vital to most. A further 68% of people say they value face-to-face interactions over online and it’s long been acknowledged the biggest reason to attend events is the networking opportunities.


Collaborative Learning is an educational approach to learning that involves groups of people working together to solve a problem, complete a task or create a product. It distinguishes itself as each learner is responsible for the group’s learning. Every person involved is at once a teacher and a student; working together to a common goal.

The best event planners know that their responsibilities go beyond simply organising the logistical elements of an event. Understanding that an event goes from being good to unforgettable when they give delegates a transformative educational experience.

Collaborative learning would be especially changing for event networking as it shifts the informational source. No longer would just the speakers be the best connection to make, but every attendee would be a source of information. This helps to create an atmosphere where delegates know they can tap into the event community.

In comparison, traditional networking scenarios place delegates together in a room with little or no context. By implementing moments of collaborative learning, event planners create a space where participants have a reason to speak to one another.


There are many benefits of using collaborative learning for networking, especially for conference attendees. Research has suggested that collaborative learning especially helps to foster community-led interactions at events.

Additionally, the use of collaborative learning:

  • Helps to create a positive social support system for delegates at a conference.
  • It helps to cement communities centered around common goals.
  • Encourages an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration across the event.
  • Reduces feelings of anxiety for first-time networkers or introverted attendees.
  • It can improve the learner’s self-esteem.

Collaborative Learning-based networking also encourages event planners to find out more about their attendees. It moves the conference away from the simplistic broadcast model, as participants can actively engage with the content. Yes, they’ll be networking, but it will have a purpose and drive.


There are many ways for event planners to introduce smaller, actively engaging sessions. Discovering what your delegates actually want to learn from the conference is an ideal starting point. Send out pre- and post-event surveys to investigate delegates’ biggest concerns and challenges.

From here, event planners can introduce delegates to networking with a purpose. For instance, delegates could be encouraged to write one thing they want to learn more about on their nametag. This encourages connections based on mutual interests, not simply job titles.

Another fantastic benefit of implementing collaborative learning strategies is they are budget-friendly. They do not necessarily need to involve state-of-the-art technologies or cost a huge chunk of your event budget.

A simple, effective and flexible format is the ‘World Café Methodology’. This can be tailored to meet a wide array of event needs; content, numbers, purpose, and location can all be considered. This format is conducted by splitting the group into smaller working groups, with each group given a different question to discuss. At the end of each round, the groups move to the next table and are introduced to a new question.

Similar to this method is ‘Jigsaw Sessions’. With this cooperative learning technique, the content for a session is broken down into five to six segments. Then the large delegate group is broken down into smaller groups, with each group member assigned a segment. Delegates learn about their specific content segment, then re-join their group and present their learnings.

Often, event planners include a quiz or similar to measure delegates’ knowledge on the content. In both cases, this would encourage a community feeling amongst delegates as their peers relied on them for knowledge.


Networking like this means the content of a conference is thoroughly cemented in the delegate’s minds. Creating interesting ways to facilitate new ways of engaging, learning and collaborating so that delegates can form meaningful connections.

9 out of 10 say that small meetings are their favourite communication method. By altering your networking opportunities to collaborative learning, you are tapping into the preferred communication method. This results in a truly memorable and meaningful event for your delegates, with excellent feedback.

If you would like to hear more ideas on how to engage your delegates during your next conference, speak to one of our event planners today.