Virtual Events

Virtual Event Networking Strategy for Beginners

Eventually Learning Team

"Your network is your net worth." - Porter Gale

Networking primarily revolves around effective business relationship building. Attendees are always looking to build meaningful connections with like-minded stakeholders who can help them in their professional spheres. Creating and nurturing relationships come naturally to most, but it can be a mammoth task for some. That is where an effective and planned virtual event networking strategy can have a remarkable effect on business development, sales, partnerships, collaborations, services that impact brand value, equity and awareness in the long run. For Event Organizers, the trick is to consciously and systematically match attendees to initiate and maintain positive business relations.  Attendees should be able to leverage intra-industry networks to gain a competitive advantage through your event.

Virtual Networking Challenges faced by event organizers so far

Event Organizers are slowly adapting to the virtual space. Event Organizers have faced challenges that have hindered networking at their event like lack of face to face interactions and the resultant stretched sales cycles etc. Some significant virtual networking challenges which they have encountered are: 

Lack of Event Content Strategy 

Having a detailed event content strategy is a critical factor for any successful virtual event and the lack of it will inevitably hold back your event’s revenue potential. Typically, attendees have a short attention span and quite a few day-to-day distractions. So if your event content strategy doesn’t revolve around engaging topics and pain points that they resonate with, attendees may get distracted easily.

Lack of technical support for virtual networking

Attendees have had issues with the technical support level at events that cannot match their technical skills to get the whole event experience online. Organizers have overcomplicated their events and created problems that they could not address. Virtual event software’s are often not user-friendly and networking tools are at times not optimized for personalized interactions resulting in low networking opportunities.

Lack of Virtual Engagement

Due to a lack of effective engagement, attendees have faced the problem of online fatigue.  Engagement tools and strategies based on the attendees' needs and interests have been a rarity. Events have had one-sided conversations, micro-events have been absent leading to lesser attendee engagements.

Formulate an effective strategy for Virtual Event Networking

Importance of Event Networking Scale and Depth

One of the limitations of virtual events is the size of the event. Greater accessibility often attracts bigger audiences; however, that will also impact focused networking. Having too many people is often chaotic to network with in the virtual space. Hence, attendee segmentation is needed to streamline and encourage positive group interactions. Harvard Business Review recommends limiting attendance to 8 people splitting them into small manageable groups.

Breakout Rooms for brainstorming business solutions

One key aspect that drives networking at virtual events is the use of breakout rooms. Breakout Rooms are rooms specifically created to group individuals in order to work with them in smaller groups. Discussions held in these breakout rooms should be centered around the event to brainstorm and find solutions to current industry challenges. These rooms should feature Sponsor led Q&A and feedback sessions to activate attendee engagement.

Engage attendees through Virtual Escape Rooms

Challenging your attendees through virtual escape rooms is a strategic way to increase engagement. These escape rooms are conceptually designed to conduct activities where teams are required to solve problems, puzzles or riddles in an allotted timeframe to "escape the room.” This encourages participants to interact and find solutions required to break free. Virtual escape rooms are an effective avenue for collaboration, team building and teamwork and have been one of the most effective activities in the corporate world.

Create rotational Networking One-on-Ones

While Virtual breakout rooms and escape rooms promote group engagement, rotational one-on-one sessions are geared towards specificity. In these focused one-on-one sessions, attendees are paired together to initiate speed networking for 5-10 minutes in a rotational manner. This drives speedy and focused networking where attendees get an overview of others’ profiles and expertise in a closed one-on-one virtual room.

Initiate attendee discussions through social audio apps 

For the last couple of years, since the advent of the pandemic, the virtual discussion space has seen stark growth. One of the leading platforms to initiate these discussions has been Clubhouse. On Clubhouse, one can host rooms where attendees gather for an exchange of ideas, free-flowing conversations circling around relevant interests and activities. Even applications like Twitter (Twitter spaces), Wavve, Discord, Riffr and Spoon can be excellent options for attendees to explore and identify with personal interests while connecting with likeminded people.

Captivate attendees through Fireside Chats

Fireside chats are relatively lesser utilized, albeit a very effective practice. Moreover, it is one of the most unique ways to engage an audience. Historically, fireside chats were a series of radio addresses delivered by US President Franklin D Roosevelt. These addresses aimed to inform and unwind Americans due to the Depression and the Second World War.

Times have changed and fireside chats today serve a different context. A fireside chat is an interactive discussion in the modern age, that ensures the audience gain vital insights from the speakers’ stories and opinions. However, the purpose of fireside chats remains the same – to put attendees at ease, make them feel relaxed, and provide them with important information that they weren’t aware of. By utilizing fireside chats in a structured manner at your event, you stand to make a big difference and activate increased attendee engagement.

Conclusion

In the ever-so-changing virtual events landscape, facing event networking challenges is a given. However, these can be overcome by implementing a personalized, focused and carefully sought after virtual networking strategy which addresses crucial pain points. The ultimate objective of engagement should be to make the attendee experience an educational and knowledgeable one, that would eventually lead to a sea of networking opportunities that help attendees in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does AI help in networking at an event?

AI provides a personalized experience for virtual event attendees. It operates based on their interests. Artificial Intelligence recommends networking events that are more suitable for attendee profiles and interests. AI also influences matchmaking in virtual events by grouping attendees with similar interests to create win-win networking opportunities.

What is a coffee chat?

Coffee chats are in-person meetings set up with a person you intend to add to your network. A virtual coffee chat is when you're meeting potential connections virtually, over a video app or software like Skype or Zoom.

How does virtual speed networking work?

Virtual Speed networking fastens the pace of networking virtually, through unique methods that involve sharing virtual business cards, taking notes on participants whom you network with, and scheduling meetings after the event.

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