As you well know, there are many different personality types at any given networking event. However, experience has shown us that most of them fall under five key categories. Many people are a combination of two or more of these types. As an event planner, you’re likely going to have to tackle networking events sooner or later (if you haven’t already). That’s why we’ve created this list of the five most common personality types at networking events- and how to tailor your event to them.
1. The People Person (Extrovert)
We all know the type. It’s the one that the event industry was tailored to. The social butterfly who seems to gain momentum as he or she flits from one conversation to the next. Although there are many complicated degrees of extroversion and introversion, typical extroverts gain energy from frequent or ongoing interactions with other people, such as at networking events. This type of person presumably attends networking events for the same professional reasons as everyone else- to meet beneficial contacts, learn new knowledge and skills, and stay relevant in their industry. But what they enjoy most is the chance to meet new people, express themselves, and connect with others personally as well as professionally.
In many ways, extroverts are the easiest to please at networking events. These people take initiative and can be very self-directed. Without the obstacle of shyness or introversion, they gravitate confidently toward people and settings that interest them. In many ways, networking is geared toward this type of person; extroverts have spontaneity on their side, so they don’t miss opportunities due to hesitating too long. Because socializing and communicating comes naturally to them, these people make connections easily. But do they maintain them?
Extroverts are as capable as anyone else to maintain long-term relationships, both personally and professionally. But like any other attendee type, there are potential obstacles to overcome. Social butterflies can be distracted easily. Because they genuinely enjoy meeting new people and learning about them, their interests aren’t necessarily as singular as those of typical introvert types. They may be deeply invested in seeking out one specific person prior to the event, and then be distracted by all of the other intriguing, potentially advantageous connections they make. Creativity runs high at good networking events; you can practically feel it buzzing through the room, and extroverts love brainstorming together.
Here’s where you, an event planner, comes in. The typical “people person” needs a little structure to stay focused, but also itches for the freedom to circulate around the room and start their own conversations. So give them a little bit of both.
We’re discussing five different kinds of attendees in this post, but generally speaking, successful networking events have activities tailored to both extroverts and introverts. They also include some that both are likely to enjoy, and that incentivize them to connect with each other.
The “people person” needs networking events that have leisure activities and live entertainment or shows to bond over. Too much formality makes them feel stifled and restless. To give extroverts some much-needed focus, try adding a brief “speed networking” activity to your agenda. Divide the group into several sections. Assign each section a topic, and allow your guests to gravitate toward the topic that interests them most. Once everyone has chosen a section, set it up so that they can rotate from person to person within the section. Set a time limit for each round, and let them get to know each other.
Although an activity like this can be a little intimidating for introverts at first, it actually has benefits for everyone. For introverts, it takes the pressure off of making introductions...and allows them to get straight to the point without having to make small talk. For extroverts, this activity gives their social energy some direction, and helps them make contacts that are as beneficial as they are enjoyable.
At the end of your event, try having a Q & A session in which attendees have the opportunity to answer each other before the leader gives the final summation on each question. Extroverts will relish the chance to share their knowledge and build others up. Introverts will be put at ease because the pressure to answer is taken off them by the extroverts; they often learn best by listening, so they’ll absorb a lot of quality information. It’s a good idea to allow note-taking at this time. Eventually, the more hesitant attendees will probably feel relaxed enough to ask their own answers and share their own knowledge and insight.
2. The Wallflower (Introvert)
Let’s start with a disclaimer: We’re well aware that all introverts are not wallflowers, and some of them aren’t even shy. However, introverts do tend to need space from the crowd at events. Because even enjoyable, enriching social exchanges can be very draining for them, they need time and space to recharge. It’s important to note that introverts also retain and utilize information best when they can process it on their own. (Many extroverts learn better by talking about what they learn).
Not only should you choose a venue that has quiet, cozy spaces where introverts can escape the crowd, but make sure you event agenda gives guests frequent breaks. During this free time, introverts will go off to decompress, and social butterflies will flit from person to person, chatting them up.
The best thing you can do for introverts is give them the most control over the agenda possible. They like activities that allow them to choose whether to speak or listen, and when to chime in if at all. Because introverts are great listeners, they learn a lot by simply observing their environment and taking notes they can expand upon later.
Introverts often need prompting to get to know people at a networking event. In addition to activities that allow introverts to observe, do some that rotate active and passive roles as well. Introverts like to have the chance to think about what they are going to say before they contribute to discussions. So plan an activity that allows them to speak about something about which they are knowledgeable.
Again, dividing groups into sections works here; designate a topic to each table in a room, and ask guests to make their way to the table of their choice. Once there, give them a problem to solve, and assign them different roles. For example, one person can brainstorm, another record; someone can organize the information, and yet another person can test or apply the conclusion. Then give them another problem and switch up the roles. This not only taps into introverts’ critical thinking skills, but it also takes the pressure off them to be spontaneous and initiate small talk before getting to the point. This kind of structure makes many introverts or “wallflowers” feel more comfortable at networking events. It’s also a great way to get all attendee types to connect more deeply and see different dimensions of each other. In most professions, people need to be comfortable in many different roles, and the right networking activities encourage this.
3. The Inspiration Junkie
Inspiration is more than just their drug of choice. These are the people whose reasons to attend networking events are largely emotional. This may sound strange since we’re talking about professional networking here. But it’s very likely that this person is deeply emotionally invested in his/her career. In fact, these people are often centrally motivated emotional and intellectual inspiration. They may be quiet and sensitive or outgoing and talkative. Whatever their personality is like, self-actualization is intrinsically vital to them. The exchange of inspiration through information and meaning is profoundly important. They want to give as much as they want to take; it’s all about energy exchange and working together to create an ideal.
And lucky for event planners, experiential market loves inspirationalists best of all. Inspiration seekers value quality experiences over quantity or material possessions. Although some may appreciate “art for the sake of art”, many even want their entertainment to inspire them. So when you hire musicians, performers, or other forms of entertainment, do so with this in mind. Try to hire entertainment that is not just emotionally arousing, but carries a tangible, inspirational message.
Inspiration seekers love events that empower a demographic or support a cause that is important to them. Sometimes they’ll make purchases, see entertainment shows, or be loyal to a brand just because it’s aligned with their values. Event data gives you all kinds of detailed demographic information, but to satisfy inspirationalists, it’s psychographics that you need to look at.
Demographics give topical information about who your attendees are and what they buy. Psychographics tell you why customers buy what they do; they delve into the motivation behind purchases. In other words, by looking at psychographics, you learn more about what inspires your customer base to come to your events. That information is invaluable when it comes to tailoring your events to inspiration seekers.
Interact with them on social media to find out what speakers they admire, what entertainers they like, and what brands they are loyal to. If you can hire vendors they love (or vendors that are similar to the ones they love), that goes a long way toward making an emotional connection with them.
And it’s not all about putting on a show, either. Your event design should include immersive experiences that allow them to collaborate creatively. Inspiration seekers want to feel like a part of their experiences; they don’t relish the thought of sitting on the sidelines and watching it all unfold. They value their own unique contributions to their environment as well as others’.
This group is important because millennials as a whole fall under this category. Introverts and extroverts can be inspiration seekers, and inspirational content appeals to both types. Introverts don’t like to squander their energy on superficial interactions, so being inspired keeps them connected at events. Extroverts are deeply connected to and invested in other people; they thrive off of the energy interactions bring. We all look outside ourselves for fulfillment and to get our needs met, but extroverts do it even more than others. Therefore, they are often easily and profoundly motivated by inspirational speakers, entertainment, art, and other content.
4. The Sage
We use this term to describe attendees whose main motivation at events is to acquire and impart knowledge. That doesn’t necessarily denote wisdom, as the term “sage” suggests. But it does mean that these people are highly intellectual, and like to absorb as well as share knowledge. In order to satisfy them, your event should be highly knowledge-based and feature plenty of intellectually stimulating content.
"Sages” or knowledge seekers like to think critically; they don’t want it all spelled out for them. Problem solving activities that deal with abstract realities and yield complex answers are ideal for them. You can also host a panel or forum that allows knowledge-motivated people to share and learn from experts. Try featuring a local industry leader who talks to your attendees about a new technology or marketing strategy that has worked his/her company. Panels and discussion forums about entrepreneurship and technology are wildly popular among knowledge-seeking types.
5. The Leader
We can hear the leaders reading this collectively gnashing their teeth: Leaders are supposed to be first on every list, right? All jokes aside, leadership-oriented people are often the minority at events- or at least it seems this way. It could just be that the leaders among us are suppressed by typical networking event designs, which leave the leadership roles to experts. But effective leaders are innovative and creative problem solvers. They know how to relate to and empathize with a range of different personality types, and they have excellent communication skills. Leaving all the leadership responsibilities to the experts sells natural-born leaders short- and everyone else, too, because most people at networking events could use guidance.
Although they may or may not love the spotlight, natural leaders are inevitably cast in it, and become comfortable there. That’s why role-playing networking activities bring out the best in them. Have your attendees act out a few situations that they may encounter in reality. Although problem solving activities also let leaders shine, role playing them allows them to demonstrate personal interaction. Being a leader isn’t just about leading- it’s about knowing how to relate to different personality types; it’s about inspiring and motivating diverse groups to work cohesively toward a goal. People will learn more about leadership from role playing than solving a problem without simulating a real-life situation.
Hopefully, this unique profile has given you an idea of what to expect from your attendees- and what they expect from you. Happy networking!