Why Aren’t Your Guests Mingling?

4 ways to ensure your next event is a social smash

As perfectionist meeting planners, most of us take pride in the details. From color-coordinated buzzworthy food and drinks to personalized takeaways, we do our best to ensure guests have a wide array of treats at their disposal. But despite our best efforts, sometimes those intricate setups simply aren’t enough to break the ice. Which begs the question––why aren’t guests mingling? 

While there’s no concrete equation to ensure your attendees interact with one another during breaks, at lunch or at post-meeting parties, here’s what you can do to encourage discourse. 

1. Offer guests a “shared experience” 

Whether they’re on opposite sides of the globe or the political spectrum, your attendees will walk into your event with their own individual experiences, expectations and biases. Naturally, this convergence of backgrounds is part of what can make meetings so inspired and energetic. But if you’re expecting your attendees to naturally become BFFs, you’ll need to do more than put them in a room together. 

A Psychology Today study found that shared experiences are crucial for bonding, trumping even some of the most “extraordinary” experiences individuals can have on their own. So how does this logic translate to your meeting? You’ll need to offer attendees a one-of-a-kind experience, something they can only witness and interact with at your meeting. Maybe it’s a concert, the demo of a new product, or even something as simple as a cooking class. No matter what the experience is, make sure it’s unique.   

2. Let them roam free   

When you’re trying to get guests to interact with one another, it might seem like a no-brainer to give individuals assigned seats. After all, it helps ensure nobody gets left out of the conversation, right? 

Well, according to a New York Times article, that logic might not be so accurate. As the piece states, assigned seating can sometimes be a source of anxiety for guests––or rather whom they might be sitting next to can create tension. 

You can offer assigned seating initially, but try to encourage guests to mingle organically. Converging around fun, convo-starting points (e.g., a cocktail bar or game station) can help with this. 

3. Bring in the pros

Although many of your guests are likely gregarious by nature, it can be incredibly daunting to approach a complete stranger. At many events or get-togethers, it’s often that one curious, ultra-extroverted individual who will get conversation flowing. So why not take the starting point into your own hands and hire help?

Whether it’s someone on your team, a designated attendee or another individual who is likely to get people talking, consider trusting a handful of people to start spurring conversation among guests. 

4. If all else fails, some liquid courage helps

Even for nondrinkers, the bar tends to be a pretty social place, with people more likely to be at ease and open to talking with strangers. If not during the meeting, try to give guests at least the option of a cocktail hour afterward. Just don’t keep the bar open all night––you want guests mingling, but definitely not falling down.