Networking is the number one reason that people attend events. Being able to connect with your peers and industry leaders in a meaningful way is what brings people together at conferences and events. With virtual events and experiences taking center stage, virtual networking events are becoming immensely popular and have proven to support physical events by reaching a larger group of people without any geographical barriers. So how do you put on an event where people feel like they are able to connect in a meaningful way online?
People might find virtual networking events a scary place to strike up a conversation. However, with the right virtual event platform features such as fun games, polls or breakout rooms, you can initiate tons of connections and conversations from your virtual experience.
If you’re trying to figure out the best way to host successful virtual networking events, the following guide will help you find the inspiration you need to design your next event.
What are your event goals? What are you looking to achieve from the event? It’s important to sit down and plan the skeleton of the event to understand your overall goals and how you will structure the event. This plan will help you define your customer base, what kind of activities you will have, who the guest speakers will be and what will drive people to the event.
Take some time to come up with a theme and the branding for the event. People love to be a part of a fun theme and it’s a great way to have your audience engaged from the start! Take this planning phase to figure out how you want the flow of the event to be such as Q/A sessions and breakout rooms for attendees to network in. Additionally, think about your branding and how you want your business to be seen at the event.
You don’t want to be stuck with a huge guest count where it’s chaotic for your attendees to network with each other. Consider keeping your count to a manageable size. If your group can be segmented, it might be a good idea to break them up depending on the segments. You can do this by creating breakout rooms that are relevant for each group depending on specialties and topics.
Don’t forget to promote your event! Use social media and other marketing channels to get word of your event out there. You can create a social media contest to encourage sharing among attendees and get their help in spreading the word. Depending on your budget you can even send relevant gift bags to further promote your event.
Depending on how large your guest list is, it could be a fun idea to have an introductory session where attendees can introduce themselves to each other. This can also happen in breakout rooms or other sessions to facilitate conversation before other events start.
It could be a good idea to head to chat rooms or other chat sessions and start a conversation with a question to encourage participation. Sometimes attendees might not want to be the first to say something or they might not know how to start a conversation. You could use this opportunity to create a game or a fun quiz around topics to further encourage conversation.
People have short attention spans. While you might have made sure video broadcasts aren’t too long, you cannot predict what your guest speakers might do. If you feel that topics are getting drawn out or that speakers are going off on a tangent, it could be a good idea to set reminders or have a way to signal them when it’s time for them to wrap up. This will only help make sure the event continues to run smoothly without any delays.
Make sure to send a thank you note or email after the event to all your attendees. This will help the attendees continue to feel connected and give them the opportunity to provide feedback after the event. It could be a fun idea to include any highlights from the conference to further gauge attendees’ memories.
When you send your thank you notes, use this as an opportunity to gather feedback for any improvement in the future. You can send out a post-event survey or poll to make it as seamless as possible for people to respond.
Once you gather your reports on engagement and participation, it’s important to analyze this report to see where and what the strong points were of the event and where you could improve. The numbers you get will be extremely telling in understanding your audience further so you can continue to tailor your services to what your target audience wants.
The more you host virtual events, the more comfortable you will be and understand how your audience works. It might take a while to give everyone exactly what they want, but that’s what feedback is for and what will help you continue to improve and host successful virtual networking events in the future!