Leveraging social software for social networking and community development at events
Professional networking is a primary goal of people attending conferences and events. Over the past year we have developed an online social networking and community tool for events, Pathable, to help attendees meet the right people. Pathable provides an online directory of attendee profiles, communication tools, and a recommendation system optimized to help people find each other based on commonalities. We performed a questionnaire study at a pathable-enabled event to assess the importance of social networking, and found that quality of conversations and sense of community were strong predictors of who said they would return year after year. In addition, the more people used Pathable to meet others at the event, the greater their event attachment and sense of community. Based on lessons learned from an overview of seventeen Pathable-enabled events, we provide guidelines for leveraging social software to optimize professional networking and community development at events.