About 100 people - among them managers, entrepreneurs, consultants and bankers - wore 'nTags' (electronic name tags that recorded every connection between two individuals of more than one minute duration) to a drinks reception at Columbia University.
The executives attending said beforehand they knew a third of the guests; however, as many as 95% said they wanted to meet new people. But the partygoers did not mix as much as they said they wanted to.
The average guest had 14 encounters during the evening and as many as half of these were with friends. Clearly, the guests felt more comfortable mixing with people they knew.
One lesson for managers who want to maximise the connections they make at such events is that it is best to turn up alone and not with a group of friends. In the first part of the evening, guests mixed with people of the same sex. Men and women mixed later on, when they felt more at ease.
What really happens at mixers?
Paul Ingram and Michael Morris
Columbia ideas@work, 27 February 2007