It’s no secret that COVID cases are on the rise again across the globe. Therefore, many companies are continuing to focus their energy on planning virtual events. There is still one consistent struggle for many though. It is how to plan engaging networking at virtual events. Despite planning virtual events for two years now, planners are still struggling. In fact, two-thirds of planners still face challenges engaging their audiences during virtual event networking. The key to successful networking is differentiating attendee engagement from attendee networking.
As you know, companies attempt to offer networking in different ways. Most love games, cooking demos, candle making, and similar options. And yes, those are fun activities! They’re effective for positive PR, cultivating shared experiences, and overall virtual event engagement. But, that isn’t the point. How are people connecting? With virtual events, there aren’t many opportunities for attendees to connect on that deeper level. And we know that this is what they’re looking for from networking opportunities.
So, for networking at virtual events to work, you have to create something different. Consider intimate, one-on-one, or small group experiences that will allow the “privacy” of an on-site meeting or conversation, through the screen. Here are a few ways to make it work for you. Plus, some ideas that have worked for our virtual event clients this year!
Choose a Virtual Event Platform That Allows for Virtual Networking Opportunities
The top consideration is one that can’t be skipped. It’s selecting a virtual event platform that has the capability you need to do this. Zoom offers seamless and simple breakout rooms. Hopin provides virtual booths with live chat between supplier and attendee. Bizzabo offers AI matchmaking for curated connections.
Make a list of what networking options you want to offer. Then, compare that with the platforms you’re considering!
You can also integrate VIP options like Clubhouse chats with top contributors. We have a blog about how to use Clubhouse to help produce ROI for your events. Check it out! Networking is one major way Clubhouse can benefit your events.
Choose Fun & Engaging Activities for Networking at Virtual Events
Depending on your target audience, networking opportunities are going to look different. You can execute these ideas during and after virtual events. This way, you’re creating more meaningful and fruitful networking opportunities!
One-on-One Speed Networking Sessions
This is a big one that has been super productive for our clients. There are a few ways to do it. You can let software utilize an algorithm to pair attendees based upon careers, interests, etc. Or, you can allow individuals to sign up for slots with people they’re interested in connecting with. Either way, set up 10-minute blocks of time and allow people to connect in solo breakout rooms! It provides an opportunity to create initial connections. Then, they can continue the conversation offline if a meaningful relationship begins.
Mini-Mastermind Breakout Sessions
If you have a big event filled with creatives but want to provide value, capitalize on breakout sessions! Create mini mastermind sessions where you split the group into smaller groups of five to ten. Then, offer prompted topics to discuss. This will simulate experiences they would have in a mastermind. Compile a list of a few topics and offer 20-minute mastermind sessions with these topics. Each session, a new group is assigned for a chance to meet new individuals!
Networking Passport with a Gift Upon Completion
One reason networking sometimes isn’t effective is because attendees aren’t incentivized to participate. If you have a multi-day conference with multiple opportunities for engagement and networking, put them all on a virtual passport where attendees can check them off as they go. If they complete the passport, gift them a Starbucks gift card or enter them to win an annual subscription to your software. The more you participate, the more chances to create connections. This inspires that participation!
Post-Event Community Building
Sometimes, one virtual event isn’t enough to create a deep connection. And most people won’t create these opportunities for themselves after the event. But, if your organization facilitates these opportunities, it’s a great way to build community! After the event, provide chances for small-group monthly meetups. Then, provide prompted topics each month. Or, you can also create a Facebook group just for event attendees to communicate post-event.
Need Help Designing Effective Opportunities for Networking at Virtual Events This Year? We Can Help.
While ideas are great to start gaining traction, as an event organizer, it’s sometimes hard to implement them all on your own. Our team at Eventistry by Alecia has been helping planners and organizations cultivate engaging networking opportunities throughout the pandemic. And before, too! You can trust us to help you cultivate experiences that will produce ROI for you and your attendees. Let’s chat about your vision. From there, we can start brainstorming virtual networking opportunities for your upcoming virtual event.