Looking for virtual networking tips for your next online event? Adding networking opportunities is always a safe bet for attracting more attendees. Whether it’s a conference or summit, a trade show, or a sales meeting, networking is high on the list of reasons people attend professional events. Networking is valuable to attendees, and that makes it desirable for event organizers. By adding more of what your attendees want, you’ll get bigger attendance figures and higher satisfaction ratings.
There are lots of ways to incorporate networking opportunities into a virtual event. These tips for virtual networking are centered around four main areas
- The event platform
- The event app
- Social media
- The event content schedule
1. Choose a Virtual Events Platform with Networking Features
Choosing a virtual events platform is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning a virtual event. Make sure the platform encourages and supports networking amongst attendees. This might mean features such as:
- Integrated chat and voice messaging: Make it easy for attendees to communicate, whether it’s in a text channel or over voice chat.
- Matchmaking: AI-powered matchmaking features pair up attendees who have mutual interests. There’s no obligation for attendees to make contact—this feature just provides contact recommendations for people who opt-in.
- Breakout spaces: Add informal breakout spaces, so people have places to chat between sessions and after the day’s sessions are over.
- Gamification and interactive tools: These features are useful because they keep engagement levels high. If attendees become disengaged, they’re less likely to be interested in networking.
All these features help people find one another and make connections. Keep the energy high with interactive, immersive event features. Attendees who are actively engaged are more likely to explore what the platform offers and use the networking features provided.
Most attendees will want to at least try out the virtual networking features on offer. So that everyone can do so, make sure these features are easy to locate and use within the event interface. If necessary, highlight them in a pre-event email blast so everyone knows how to network at the event.
2. Choose a Feature-Rich Event App
If your virtual event has an app, the app should have some integrated networking features. Attendees who use the app should be able to create an account and make their own bio, with contact info and other relevant details.
Again, make sure to signpost these event app networking features, so attendees know where they are and how to use them. Nobody should be left wondering how to network at a virtual conference they’re attending. It should be easy and intuitive so that everyone can participate.
3. Take Advantage of Social Media Connections
Attendees who are serious about networking will gravitate to event-related social media pages. Help encourage connections by creating an event hashtag. Then, post to it regularly so it’s active across all the social media platforms the event is using.
Another way to use social media is to create dedicated chat channels on Slack, Discord, or another platform for people to use during the event. This is a great fallback option if you decide to forgo using an event app or if you’re holding a small event via Zoom or another bare-bones event platform. As an added bonus, you can keep these channels open for as long as you like after the event is over. This allows the possibility of building a long-term community.
4. Add Networking-Focused Event Content
Aside from using event platform and app features, the main way people network is via the network-focused content you provide for them. This means adding dedicated networking sessions to the event schedule. There are many ways to structure networking sessions and many possible activities to include. You can easily schedule a different session every day of a full-week event, without doubling up on activities.
Some virtual networking tips for structured sessions include:
- Moderated discussion: In discussion sessions, the group has a moderated discussion about a particular topic of interest to the industry. Topics are typically picked in advance. With this option, you can schedule multiple discussion sessions, each with different topics, and let people choose which one to attend.
- Networking activities: These sessions include icebreaker games, team games, and other activities that encourage people to get to know one another.
- Speed networking: In virtual speed networking, the group is divided into pairs. Each pair has a few minutes to chat together in a breakout space, and then each attendee moves on to form a new pair with a new partner. This continues for a set number of rounds or until everyone’s had a chance to talk to all the other group members.
Interested in scheduling a virtual networking event? Learn how here.
5. Add Social Content Too
Along with networking-focused content, attendees also appreciate event content that’s more social in nature. Not all networking sessions need to be strictly professional, especially for a multi-day event. At the end of each event day, attendees will enjoy the chance to relax at a virtual happy hour.
Some ways to add social sessions to your schedule are:
- Coffee and chat sessions: Break up the serious content with a fun, informal chat session. A coffee break with some icebreaker questions or casual chat is a great way to end the morning and set attendees up for the afternoon.
- Communal lunch: Some attendees may prefer to eat lunch away from the keyboard. For those who are happy to share their lunch break with others, why not turn it into a social session?
- Happy hour: Add a virtual happy hour at the end of each event day. One popular option is to combine happy hour with a mixology lesson. Provide attendees with a recipe and ingredients list in advance, and they can follow along with the mixologist to create their own cocktail. You could even send them cocktail glasses ahead of time as fun virtual swag!
- Entertainment: Whether it’s live music, a comedy routine, or another form of entertainment, this can be a great way to round off an event. Make the last day’s happy hour a special one, with entertainment that gets everyone talking.
Virtual Networking Tips that Add Value to Your Next Virtual Event
Today’s virtual events platforms are feature-rich, with tools that let you create engaging, interactive attendee experiences. Networking is important to most people who attend professional events, so it’s important to make good use of the networking features that your event has available. Help your attendees make new connections, and they’ll be happy to show up to every event you hold.