Networking is a top motivator for individuals attending business events, as it fosters a sense of community around a common business theme. However, there are no guarantees of meeting the right connections, and serendipitous encounters can be rare. But what if there was a way to significantly enhance the likelihood of successful business networking?
According to Phil Mershon, the solution may involve having dedicated networking ambassadors. Phil Mershon, the author of “Unforgettable: The Art and Science of Creating Memorable Experiences” and Director of Experience for Social Media Examiner, believes that networking ambassadors play a pivotal role in enhancing the networking experience. He has been instrumental in transforming Social Media Examiner’s flagship event, Social Media Marketing World, into a closely-knit community.
This annual event, held in San Diego since 2013, features an active team of networking ambassadors. The concept was initially conceived with the guidance of an experienced networker, Mike Ambassador Bruny, who led the team during its first year and trained subsequent ambassadors. Since then, networking ambassadors have been a consistent part of the event team, with volunteers trained by Mershon. In the most recent event in March, a team of seven networking ambassadors assisted nearly 2,000 attendees in making meaningful connections. Mershon explained that the goal is to create a culture where people feel approachable and open to conversation.
So, what exactly does a networking ambassador do? Mershon acknowledges that it’s challenging to pinpoint the exact qualities that make a good networking ambassador. Their primary responsibility is to initiate conversations and encourage others to do the same. Authenticity is key, but it’s also beneficial when ambassadors naturally excel at connecting with people. The role largely relies on intuition and social awareness to read situations accurately. Ambassadors aim to start conversations, facilitate comfort among participants, and then transition these connections seamlessly..
While some individuals excel at making numerous connections efficiently, it’s not solely about quantity. Most connections are one-on-one, emphasizing the importance of quickly understanding how to assist each individual. Sometimes, their role may involve serving as a roaming helpdesk, while other times, they may need to fulfill more complex requests, such as locating specific attendees or those who fit certain profiles within the crowd. Effective follow-up is also crucial, either during the event or afterward, to ensure that people feel valued and cared for. Mershon emphasizes that networking ambassadors have a swift and substantial impact on the event’s culture. Their presence creates a sense of safety and belonging among participants, fostering a positive atmosphere. Over the years, Mershon has refined his approach to selecting volunteers for this role, prioritizing those with a knack for connections who can operate independently./p>
During the event, networking ambassadors wear distinctive shirts on the first day for easy identification, but for the rest of the event, they blend in with the other attendees, working incognito. Their role shifts from being visible information points to covert facilitators of human connections. While Mershon is open to incorporating technology, such as AI, for collecting and organizing attendee data, he firmly believes in the synergy of human and tech-based solutions. He intends to invest in further training to continually improve outcomes and explore strategies like table talks and meetups to bring larger groups of people together.
In summary, networking ambassadors play a vital role in enhancing the networking experience at business events by fostering connections and creating a welcoming environment. Phil Mershon’s approach combines human touch with technology, and he continues to seek innovative ways to improve the gathering of like-minded individuals.