Virtual networking events are the perfect way to make connections without extra hassle. You can show up and find people to build valuable relationships without leaving the comfort of your own home. In a world where avoiding concerns of a pandemic is usually at the forefront of peoples’ minds, this is an ideal scenario.
Are you planning on hosting a virtual networking event soon? If so, you’ll want to know all the top techniques for making sure it’s a success. Keep reading for this ultimate guide on virtual networking in 2022.
Why Host a Virtual Networking Event?
Networking events are one of the best ways to meet your business and professional goals. They come with plenty of benefits for both you and the attendees. If you’re thinking about hosting a virtual networking event, read on to check out the various benefits.
Create a Sense of Community
Gatherings have always been one of the easiest ways to increase a sense of community and belongingness amongst people. Multiple research studies have shown that social interaction is a vital key to positive development in our physical and mental health. Basically, people need other people and this is especially important in the business and professional world.
Hosting a virtual networking event helps people come together over common ground and mutual values. This can create a strong sense of community around your particular mission. Invite like-minded individuals into one space together and watch the bonds naturally begin to form and grow.
Connect Talent to Opportunities
Networking events have the primary purpose of bringing people together so that they can become better individuals. Sometimes companies are looking for individuals to make them better and vice versa. People feel comfortable walking up to someone and pitching themselves or asking about career opportunities because they know it’s the appropriate place to do so.
Virtual networking events help to filter people and put them all in one spot so everybody knows the other person’s intent and level of commitment. These types of events make it easier for businesses and talent to find each other way quicker than they would usually.
Boost Your Brand
Hosting a great event, in general, can help build a good reputation around your brand. However, hosting a successful virtual networking event where people gained a ton of value and new connections will definitely keep you top of mind.
Although it’s virtual, you can still brand the event. Do things like creating a hashtag on social media for people who share their experiences about the event. Or consider sending all the attendees free materials to keep up with their connections customized with your logo.
Engage With Attendees Year-Round
A huge part of building connections is to be consistent with interaction. Online people use methods for this such as regular newsletters to their email lists or sending automated messages for special occasions. Another way to keep up with your connections throughout the year is through virtual events.
Increase Event Satisfaction
If throwing events is more than a one-time thing then hosting a virtual networking event can help to improve future efforts. You can increase overall event satisfaction by getting feedback from attendees and going over the data from the event.
Figure out what worked and what did not to make changes to the following events. This can also help to gain further insight into the audience that typically attends the events. Platforms like Braindate help to collect helpful feedback through optimized features like focus groups and user interviews.
How to Host a Virtual Networking Event
There are a lot of moving pieces that have to come together in just the right way to host a successful virtual networking event. You have to do some planning beforehand that will help the event go as smoothly as possible. Check out these key steps to take when hosting your next virtual event.
Setup Goals & KPIs
Anytime you throw a business event, there should be some intention behind it. What do you want to gain from this event? How do you want attendees to feel after they leave? You should take all of these questions into account to set structured goals that align with your answers.
Once you’ve set goals for the event, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to measure these goals. Which factors will let you know that you’re on track with meeting your goals successfully? These are referred to as your KPIs or key performance indicators.
For instance, one of your goals may be to add 10 new subscribers to your email list. You might specifically track this by how many people opt-in to your list by downloading a free resource. Make sure the goals are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and have a timeframe).
Sort Out Logistics
Now it’s time for you to plan out the behind-the-scenes operations. This includes everything that will make the event happen. For instance, team members, budget, technological tools, etc.
Just because it’s a virtual event doesn’t mean you might not run into some of the same issues as you would for an in-person event. Plan ahead to have troubleshooting solutions in place for any mishaps. Make sure it’s clear who is responsible for which parts of the event and any protocols should be referenced.
Create an Itinerary
One thing that you shouldn’t forget for any event is a plan for how you envision the day going. Think about the type of experience you want to give the people who are attending and which elements you’ll need to include to make this happen. Create an itinerary for the networking event starting with a layout for the schedule of activities.
Will you be starting with an icebreaker followed by a presentation? Maybe you want to include a panel discussion or speakers. If so, these are factors to consider and let your attendees know about.
Make sure that the itinerary is clearly mapped out with timeframes in place. Give a copy of the schedule to everyone that will be working on the team so they can be prepared.
Figure Out Your Virtual Tools
Running a successful virtual networking event requires you to have the right technological setup. Go back to that plan that you mapped out about the experience you’d like your attendees to have. Figure out which tools you’ll need to use that can help you with this.
For instance, let’s say you want attendees to be able to have some intimate moments in smaller groups. In this case, it might be best for you to find a platform with a feature that allows a section of event participants to go into separate rooms. Braindate is a tool that has taken this exact feature into consideration and allows for more organic connections.
You’ll also need to consider all of the tools you’ll need leading up to the day. How are the attendees registering for the event? Will you be emailing them updates before and after? Maybe you want to keep up with everyone who attended in a CRM (customer relationship manager).
Consider each component of the event that you want to be included in the experience. Try to find tools that integrate well with each and can be automated. There are plenty of event technology tools that are optimized for helping hosts and coordinators create amazing virtual gatherings.
Make a Guestlist
To make sure your virtual networking event is a success, you’ll want to make sure you invite the right people. Think of anyone who would benefit from the event as well as add value to it. These may be people that are already in your network or mutuals from your extended network.
If you want the event to be a little more open, consider putting links in places where you think your ideal attendees will be. You may find people in LinkedIn groups, Slack channels or even professional forums that you can invite. The most important part about the guest list is making sure that everyone is aware of the nature of the event and is all on the same page.
Make sure you’re gathering contact information as you go. This is important for sending information to people attending the event as the time approaches.
Finally, it’s time to send out the details of your event to the attendees. On the day before and the day of, make sure you email reminders to everyone with all the proper links for quick and easy access to the event. This is also a great time to give a rundown of what to expect from the virtual event and any rules and requirements you’d like to address.
Attendees should have access to the event itinerary in an email or upon entering the event. Be sure to walk guests through the platform and any other tools they’ll need to use during the event. Another thing to do on the day of the event is a test run of the entire event.
During the Event
While at your event, you want to create a welcoming atmosphere. Introduce yourself, your company, and the event itself to the guests. Make everyone aware of the house rules and give people a rundown of the flow of the day.
If there are transitions and breaks throughout the event, give the guests a heads up a few minutes in advance before moving on to the next activity or section of the day. It’s best to have moderators to help you manage and maintain the temperature of the event. Also, share the accessibility options before the event gets started so guests are able to locate and navigate them easily.
Let people know if there’s a designated place to ask questions and use presentation slides for important points. Overall, be sure to work the room and be attentive to your attendees.
Virtual Networking Platforms: What Features Should You Look For?
Even before we were experiencing a pandemic world, there were multiple choices for virtual event platforms. Since people have become more accustomed to creating remote alternatives for safety measures, technology has also made adjustments. And this is reflected in a lot of the software, apps, and features that we see in event technology today.
When it comes to running a virtual networking event, you’ll want to make sure the platform you choose is optimized for providing the best experience for everyone. Most platforms will offer some of the same basic features that you’ll need. Then there are tools that will make your event even more of a special occasion.
One of the most important features that every virtual event platform will come with is video. Video has become one of the primary ways that we meet in group settings these days. Meetings by video calls are up 50% more since 2020. Be sure the in-app camera works well with your current version of your computer or laptop software.
Being able to communicate with others during a virtual event without interrupting a speaker is important. Having a chatroom feature is ideal for this. It’s also a great way to share relevant things with others like links, documents, contact information, etc. Be sure that the chatroom has the ability to speak to the entire group as well as send private messages.
Event Booking and Calendar System
Getting people registered and booked for your event is another important feature to consider. It’s best to have a system that can make the process of scheduling events and sending out details seamless. The software should have an internal calendar so that it can monitor double bookings and help with event management.
Being able to sell tickets directly through the platform is also ideal. Some systems will even allow you to customize ticket management down to select how many free and paid tickets are available. Being able to take donations, gifts, and group purchases is also a huge plus.
Once the virtual networking event is over, it would be great if you could see how well the event went. Look for features that allow you to track analytics such as ticket sales, total revenue, attendance, etc.
It would also be extremely beneficial to have access to qualitative data that can measure the overall impact of the event. Platforms like Braindate give you downloadable reports on a variety of participant metrics. For instance, you can monitor real-time user activity during the event which helps to manage participation.
You want a platform that has features to help you enhance your attendee experience. One of the most essential parts of a networking strategy is to make good conversation. Braindate offers features that support this exact element such as a crowdsourced topic feed and topic cards to create more human-centered experiences.
Virtual Networking Questions: Icebreakers to Get Conversations Started
When it comes to hosting a virtual networking event, your main goal is to make sure that ultimately all the attendees have a good time. There are a few things you can do to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
For starters, sometimes people have a difficult time working the room or implementing networking techniques on their own. Adding in icebreakers can help even shy folks come out of their shell and spark great convos.
Here are 20 thought-provoking icebreakers question prompts to include at your event:
- What inspired you to come to the event?
- Name something famous from the city that you’re from for people to guess
- How can you describe your current role, profession, or title in 5 words?
- What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
- What is one thing about you that people are often surprised by?
- What’s your dream job or project?
- Does your degree align with your current career?
- How do you measure professional success?
- What’s the worst job or project you’ve ever worked on?
- What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
- Who’s the first person you call when you reach a huge milestone or accomplishment? And why?
- What are 4 things on your work desk right now that you couldn’t do without?
- If you could work from anywhere in the world where would it be?
- What’s do you love about your current role, job, or profession?
- What new skills are you looking forward to learning over the next year?
- What would you consider yourself an expert in?
- If you could have dinner with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?
- What’s one piece of knowledge you wish you had a the beginning of your career?
- If you could only 3 tech tools every day what would they be?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Virtual Networking Ideas We Love
If you want to make sure your virtual networking event is one to remember, shake things up a bit with some unique activities to keep people engaged. Keep reading for these networking ideas that will get the crowd going.
Virtual Happy Hour
Who doesn’t love a good happy hour event? Except for this time, it’s BYOB and happening at the virtual bar from the comfort of everyone’s home.
Consider hosting this laid-back style to add a casual feel to the event. Ask participants ahead to mix a drink for themselves or consider sending gift cards to everyone in attendance to treat them to a drink on you from a delivery service.
Invite a Guest Speaker
Another way to make your virtual networking event one to remember is to invite a guest speaker. Think about someone who is inspiring and would do a great job motivating the crowd.
If there’s a particular industry you want to highlight, reach out to a thought leader or authority figure. Landing a speaker could also be a great advantage for promoting the event.
Run Pop-Up Q&A Panel Discussion
Do you want attendees to leave your event feeling a little more social and educated? In this case, one of the best networking ideas to include is a pop-up Q&A panel discussion.
Basically, you would call on industry experts to be on a small panel. Then you could open the floor for participants to ask them speed questions about their industry or other general career questions. Consider marking a list of people who would be ideal for the panel ahead of time but keep it a surprise for the guests.
Perfect Match Speed Sessions
Here’s an idea that puts a twist on the concept of speed dating. Get a good idea of who’ll be attending your event beforehand. Then, make a list of potential matches to be paired off in quick one-on-one or small group-style sessions.
Have prompts prepared for the pairs as options for conversations starters. You can match people by qualities such as skillsets, industry, roles, etc. Add a short questionnaire to your registration form if you’re considering adding this component to your event.
Make Your Next Virtual Networking Event a Success
Virtual events have become a thing of the future due to new practices and protocols to help ensure safety during the pandemic. Hosting a virtual networking event has many benefits including building community and boosting brand reputation.
You can leverage the power of a virtual event by following this guide to make sure you have a practical and comprehensive checklist for making your next one a success. There are multiple platforms that cater to making sure event organizers and attendees have the best experiences possible.
If you’re looking for a way to bring people together for a virtual event, contact us today to schedule a demo and learn more about how Braindate can help.
Ideas to Make Networking Easy and Fun
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