Summer internships are a great way for students and employers to feel each other out before committing to a full-time role. Companies devote time and resources to finding, selecting, and training interns, and expect a return on that investment. This monetary outlay includes summer intern networking events, a way to see if these future employees have the interpersonal skills necessary for success.

“Collaboration is of the utmost importance and will continue to be so in the coming years,” states Lindsay Griffiths, director of global relationship management at International Lawyers Network, an association of 90 midsize law firms in 67 countries. “These events spotlight how well they engage with others, and if they are someone who will work well on a team in the future.”

It’s not just important to have the skills to get along with colleagues. “Every lawyer will have to be a salesperson at some point in their career. By observing how an intern interacts will indicate if they will be able to build a book of their own business at some stage in their career,” adds Griffiths.

She finds that the best networking events combine structured activities with time for freeform interaction. Knowing not all are natural networkers, Griffiths establishes an online social presence for the group before the event. “I make the attendee list available and create hashtags,” she says.

For gatherings where networking is a goal, she organizes buffets, not sit-down meals. “Food gives people something to talk about, and they will chat while they are at the buffet,” she says. She has also arranged standing meals where the group switches tables during courses. Caricaturists, palm readers, and table side magicians are also ways to spark conversation and engagement, explains Griffiths, the main goal of a networking event. 

Depending on your company policy, you’ll need to make a decision about whether or not to serve alcohol at such events. Dry events need not be dull—there are far more creative choices out there than water, soda, and tea! Booze-free cocktails can also serve as a great way to get people talking and mingling.

Intern networking events are essential for both the candidates and the law firms and consulting companies sponsoring them. “In this market, it’s important to be really strategic with recruitment programs.”

Vanessa Keating, owner of California-based Evolve Creative and an experiential strategist, creative coach and business consultant, offers her tips for creating impactful events for interns.

“To be successful, always know your audience, and in this case, millennials and the younger generation want to feel included and know they are making a difference,” she explains.

  1. Talk with Them, Not at Them. This can be achieved by including them in conversations instead of creating environments where they are talked to. Round tables and discussions are far better than lectures for these types of events.
  2. Keep it Green. “This group is very environmentally minded, and as such, choosing organic, farm-to-table, healthy food and beverages is appreciated. Make sure flatware is environmentally friendly—no straws, plastic utensils or other single-use plastics whenever possible,” advises Keating.
  3. Worldly. “Political and social sensitivities and issues should be presented, as this generation is well educated on many issues going on in the world and as such are here to make differences in them whenever possible. Take time to add these topics to discussions and make space for the answers and ideas that arise.”
  4. Save it. “Harvesting conversations that can live on past mixer events via a sign-up, social media group or email list is a great way to re-engage any ongoing events, or to continue the conversation past the live event,” adds Keating.

By incorporating these tips into the intern networking events you plan, you are sure to create experiences that resonate. It’s no secret that one’s resume represents the best possible version of the person. An internship offers the employers to see the candidate in action, and a networking event ups the ante.