At an in-person, live event, networking often just happens. People join breakout sessions, meet in the conference center lobby, or chat over coffee. These impromptu networking opportunities are not possible at a virtual event. It can seem difficult to think of networking ideas for your virtual event, but we're here to help.
With an online audience, event organizers must work harder to foster meaningful connections between attendees and actively provide networking possibilities. To that end, here is a list of creative and original networking ideas to include at your next virtual event. These ideas can increase attendee engagement and help ensure a successful virtual event!
Event gamification elements, like a virtual scavenger hunt, can go a long way to facilitating networking at your virtual event. Encourage the virtual attendees to form teams to compete in a scavenger hunt. Teams will have to navigate the virtual event space in order to find items on a list. Not only will this encourage networking amongst team members, but it will also encourage attendees to engage with the event content.
Consider using this networking idea at a virtual conference or trade show where there is a number of vendors and exhibitors with virtual booths. Send teams looking for specific items or information that can only be obtained by making contact with those running the booths or by attending specific sessions and demonstrations.
Many escape room providers have shifted their focus to an online format in order to survive the coronavirus pandemic. Use this to your advantage! Reach out to local escape room providers and see if they will work with you to design a specific escape room for your event. Theme the room around a specific industry or something else that will speak to each attendee.
Again, attendees can form their own groups, or, you could use the information gathered through registration to match teams and assign them at the start of the conference. A virtual escape room will give attendees the opportunity to work together with other participants, each using their knowledge and skills to solve problems.
For most virtual attendees, staring at your screen all day is exhausting. Mix things up by adding a fun session or two. Using a virtual event platform like Accelevents means you can create a virtual cocktail lounge and host a little party or networking event.
To encourage greater attendance and participation, send each virtual attendee a special gift. Send a small bottle of wine, ingredients for a custom cocktail, or a craft beer sample. Engage local sponsors by having them supply these items or put their name on it.
Remember to be respectful and responsible in this instance and supply an alcohol-free option. Preferences and details can be gathered via registration. Consider adding a theme to your cocktail hour and have attendees dress up for the event. This gives remote attendees a chance to display their creativity while meeting and mingling with other attendees.
Social media platforms are useful for event marketing and generating excitement in advance, but they are also good for maintaining networking opportunities during and after the festivities. By creating private groups and inviting attendees, you can keep the conversations (and networking!) going long after the event has ended.
Facebook is perfect for this idea. Create the group and ask leading questions that will increase audience engagement and overall participation levels. Over time, group members will naturally start to connect with one another, reducing the need for major facilitation or oversight.
It is also a good idea to set up a Twitter feed for your digital event and consider a group on LinkedIn as well. The more groups you create, the more accommodating you can be. Attendees will have social media preferences and because your online event can draw a wider audience than a live event, using multiple platforms will ensure that no one is left out.
Hosting an online event means you can collect a lot of information from your attendees. This information can be used to match attendees based on their industry sector and goals. You can set up small networking groups in advance and then introduce them to one another during a designated networking session. Or, you can set up a speed dating-like scenario.
Set up a virtual meeting room and give a certain number of participants a “table” and the other participants move from table to table in an organized fashion. In this way, you are introducing as many people as possible to one another. This is one area where the video chat capabilities of your platform will come in handy. In the allotted time with each fellow attendee, contact details and other relevant information can be collected and decisions about the value of a working relationship can be determined from there.
As an event organizer, you know that event attendees often meet and connect outside of designated spaces and events. While these networking opportunities don’t automatically exist for online events, you can make them a reality.
Make sure your virtual event space includes a virtual lobby or lounge where attendees can virtually ‘hang out’ between sessions. Attendee avatars or personas had the option to chat with one another while awaiting the next session or the address from the keynote speaker.
Trivia is always a fun way to bring people together. Generate remote teams and provide a series of questions related to your event content or related industries.
Apart from these creative ideas, you may consider a few more ideas to help make your virtual event more interactive for your attendees.
Your networking sessions are an integral part of your can engage audiences effectively. If, for example, you are holding a virtual conference for real estate professionals, including brokers, inspectors, appraisers, and developers, create teams that include at least one of each profession and design questions that speak to each one’s area of expertise.
While hosting a networking session, try and engage with your audience and help break the ice by facilitating discussions. One thoughtful question can spark conversations and help aid team collaboration. Active participation in networking events and breakout sessions is key to building a relationship with your audience. Try to strike a balance by sprinkling in comments and questions that can enable discussions. The objective here is to initiate conversations and also demonstrate your expertise.
Encouraging participants to engage during a virtual session is a bonus that comes with networking virtually, a feature that in-person events cannot offer. In physical events, having a side conversation with attendees during a live conference can be difficult but with virtual break out rooms, a private community can engage with one another without any hassle. During your virtual networking events, initiate conversations with questions about the speaker or the topic of discussion. This will push the audience to communicate and listen to one another that will forge relationships that may have been impossible otherwise.
At first glance, it may seem like virtual networking opportunities are tough to come by, but once you take a closer look, you see that finding these opportunities is just a matter of planning. As an event planner or organizer, you need to think carefully about your event and determine which networking style will best suit your virtual attendees. Will some type of gamification create connections or will your event benefit from a more traditional networking approach?
Choosing one (or more!) of the above options is a sure-fire way to provide value to your attendees and help them create meaningful connections with other attendees. Need help with your virtual or hybrid event? Contact us today and learn about how our all-in-one virtual platform can help you achieve your brand growth goals.