14 essential event networking and meeting formats for 2024

14 essential event networking and meeting formats for 2024
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Event organizers are renowned for their creativity, especially when it comes to inventing new names for things that already exist! It's a vibrant ecosystem of words and phrases, each designed to describe a specific format or objective or quite simply, a new way to generate additional event revenue.

It's no different with event meeting and networking formats either. This article will take a closer look at the most popular formats to help you decode jargon to help you understand the different networking formats that are shaping the events industry today.

What is a networking or meeting-focused event?

From small one-to-one meetings to larger group gatherings, networking events are designed to bring like-minded individuals together and facilitate meaningful connections at the same time.  But there are two ways of deploying meeting-focused events: either ‘structured’ or ‘unstructured’. See below for the differences and how they can be implemented into your next event.

What is a structured meeting event format?

Facilitated meetings, pre-scheduled meetings or structured meetings: all terms for the same thing. Basically, these types of events where structured meetings are a core part of the event experience. It’s where organizers are intentional about bringing participants together to meet each other. They match up participants with each other. That could be buyers and suppliers at a hosted buyer-style event. This type of event encourages conversation, interaction and the exchange of ideas between people.

What is an unstructured meeting event format?

There are also events which don’t feature structured meetings. These events, like meetups, often use the power of serendipity to ensure participants meet. These unstructured events provide meetings which allow participants to bump into each other, like while queuing for drinks at the bar. Alternatively, unstructured meetings at an event can happen by providing an event app which has a directory of all your participants. They can then browse the directory, using powerful filters, to find each other and arrange their own meetings at your event.  Often these take place in a meeting lounge that you set up with chairs and tables. Getting these lounges sponsored is a great way to generate additional revenue for savvy event organizers.

How can you facilitate better connections between participants using matchmaking?

Event matchmaking is the process of pairing participants with each other based on their specific interests, objectives or needs where you've taken the guesswork out of who to meet.

The success of a B2B matchmaking event largely depends on the connections made between attendees and the resulting business relationships established. Therefore, it's crucial for event organizers to facilitate effective matchmaking between participants, and it's where an effective mobile event app can make a real difference.

A good trade show app should provide attendees with the ability to create a profile, view other attendee profiles, and connect with them directly through in-app messaging or through AI-powered event matchmaking software. The event networking technology should also offer personalized suggestions for potential matches based on shared interests, goals and industries.

The 14 best event networking and matchmaking formats for your show

The strategy behind these types of events is simple: bring participants together so they form valuable business relationships. But how do you tactically deploy them? That’s the tricky part as there are so many moving parts to these types of events. The good news is that by following tried and tested formats, you’re able to give participants a great event experience. See below for the 14 best event formats you could use to introduce more intentional (and serendipitous) meetings at your next event.

1️⃣ Speed networking: Think speed dating, but for professionals. This structured event meeting format is perfect if you want to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. It's a flurry of quick introductions and elevator pitches, with each meeting taking only four minutes. Read more about this in our recent blog: “Speed networking: boost your participants’ event engagement, efficiency and demonstrate ROI”

2️⃣ Roundtable: This structured event format enables your participants to spend more quality time with a select group of people, often 12 - 20 participants over 90 minutes. They are usually pre-scheduled and led by a facilitator who ensures the conversation remains productive and on-topic offering a chance for in-depth discussion on specific topics. Eventbrite has a great guide on how to organize your own roundtable.

3️⃣ World Café Conversations: This is an innovative structured format where multiple mini roundtables run concurrently. Attendees talk, tables shuffle, and then they talk again, promoting dynamic discussions and interactions. Event organizer Nineteen Group, which owns The Manufacturer media outlet, employs this format for its events. Approximately 10 mini roundtables happen at once, each chaired by a different sponsor. They often begin once a presentation from an industry leader has taken place. Then another presentation is delivered and the participants move tables for the next session.

4️⃣ Business Forums: These events are typically larger and cover various industry-related themes. They allow for networking, sharing ideas, and learning about the latest trends. A good example of an organizer using this format is Richmond Events.

5️⃣ Hosted buyer or Meet-the-buyer: In this highly structured format, event organizers invite potential buyers, often offering incentives like covering travel costs and accommodation, to ensure a captive audience for exhibitors. For more on how to deliver a world-class hosted buyer event, check out our MIP Cancun case study which uses Grip’s Hosted Buyer software, MustMeet

6️⃣ One-to-one: As the name suggests, these are individual meetings set up between two parties, allowing for focused discussions and negotiations.

7️⃣ One-to-many: Here, one person will have a meeting with a couple of other participants or more at once. For example, a mentor in a startup accelerator sits down with three founders at the same time so they can provide advice but also the founders can learn from each other quickly.  This is something Grip does for Playfair Capital, read our case study, here.

8️⃣ Group meetings: These are gatherings of multiple parties, allowing for broader discussions and cross-pollination of ideas.

9️⃣ Self-arranged meetings: These can be arranged by participants themselves typically utilizing an event networking platform, like Grip. An example is sales people at a big trade show who will review the participants listed in the app a week before the event. They’ll then identify relevant prospects and pitch a meeting with them via the app, which usually takes place in a meeting area or on their booth at the event.

1️⃣0️⃣ Mastermind:These are small, highly exclusive group events where peers  meet regularly to discuss business challenges and share advice. While it shares similarities with mentoring, there are key distinctions. Unlike one-on-one mentorship, a mastermind group typically comprises five to six members. In this collaborative setting, participants both give and receive advice, fostering growth and learning. A good example is B2B SaaS CEO Mastermind Group from Value Inspiration. This event format is facilitated by Ton Dobbe once a week. He successfully brings startup founders together to solve their own challenges using a Mastermind format.

1️⃣1️⃣ Meetup: These are casual, informal gatherings around a specific interest or topic but with an open room, free for discussion. Sometimes, event organizers are more intentional about connecting their participants. The best events feature some sort of matchmaking after several speakers have presented. One of the most popular UK events is the London Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning Meetup which features a range of interesting speakers and networking opportunities.

1️⃣2️⃣ Working group: These serve as collaborative think tanks, pooling expertise to tackle specific challenges and propose solutions. They are becoming increasingly popular at events, where attendees come together to work on an assignment or project with the objective of producing tangible outcomes. Great for learning, but also in helping attendees make new connections. If you want to start your own working group, management coach Lara Hogan has a good guide, here.

1️⃣3️⃣ Networking drinks: This is a classic unstructured networking format, and the perfect way to wind down after a busy day at an event. It's also great for informal and unstructured conversations with people from various industries, but it’s important to offer quality non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative, so everyone feels included at your event.

1️⃣4️⃣ Hackathon: These events bring together creative minds to solve problems or develop innovative ideas, often seen in the tech world, but they can be adapted to any industry. The structure is frequently competitive. For example, an organization aiming to create a novel operating system organizes a hackathon, where startups or development teams are invited to propose solutions. A panel of judges evaluates the submissions and awards prizes to the top product. Here’s a helpful 10 step guide to running a successful hackathon from

With so many different formats, it can be hard to know which one is best for your event. The key is understanding the objectives of your event and selecting the format that best supports those goals: whether it's getting people to meet each other or engaging in meaningful conversations.

Each of these networking formats serves a unique purpose and caters to different objectives. As an event attendee or organizer, understanding these terms not only helps navigate the event landscape but also in leverage the right format to meet your goals. Remember, the essence of all these formats is to foster meaningful connections and fruitful conversations, whether they are via structured or unstructured meetings. So, pick your format and start helping your participants to build long lasting business relationships.

Prove the value of your meeting or networking event

Whilst there are many different meeting formats, what is important with whichever type of meeting you choose is to deliver on your return on objectives (ROO). It's not just a fancy term; it means setting up your meetings and events that deliver on specific objectives, ensuring that every moment spent at an event is worthwhile. This helps to prove the value to your event participants whether they are hosted buyers, suppliers, attendees, sponsors or exhibitors.

For more information about meetings at events, check out our B2B Relationships Report.