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How people in the networking business network

IllustrationIf done in an organized fashion, networking activities can be both productive and a refreshing break from meetings. For a successful networking game, take a page out of a professional’s playbook. Here’s how two companies that specialize in communications handle their own networking events.

Vanco, a London-based firm that designs and manages global communications networks, incorporated the concept of speed dating into its annual meeting. Mandy Moss, global events and brand manager, asked each staff member to list six colleagues -- people known only from phone or e-mail conversations -- that he or she wanted to meet face-to-face. Moss matched the responses, set up 172 rendezvous points and gave each person a schedule for four meet-and-greets. In a span of 40 minutes, the Vanco employees had 1,302 five-minute conversations.

The Call Center Networking Group, a Dallas-based association that hosts programs for call center managers, plays a version of bingo: Each square bears the name of a sponsor, and an attendee can only check it off after trading business cards with a company representative. Another game: Each attendee is given a playing card and has to find four conversation partners to make the best poker hand. The goal is to bring people together in a fun way, says Lela Carter, director of membership for CCNG. “There are always a couple of people who are pretty shy and who are really going to sit back and take it all in if you don’t make them participate,” she says.