One of the primary reasons people attend in-person meetings is to network. But how can we promote this aspect of digital events more effectively? According to a most recent survey of over 400 event marketers conducted by meetings software provider Bizzabo, networking was identified as the “most significant challenge for virtual events” by more than 66% of respondents. Numerous dissatisfied event planners attempted to recreate the intimacy associated with face-to-face meetings with various different virtual networking ideas. “Be prepared to engage in some virtual speed dating,” says Anshwa Lewis, PMP, celebration curator for SwaLaRue Events, LLC. “You should practice your elevator pitch and be prepared to connect at light speed, as virtual networks are frequently configured so that you can speak with one person for five to ten minutes before being assigned to network with another.” While the digital format may limit the types of organic conversations that can occur on a trade show floor or at a coffee station, it does open up some creative possibilities. Now, we will be looking at some best tips for maximizing online networking. The following are creative virtual networking ideas:
Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Event gamification components will help the virtual event attendees network more effectively. Encourage the virtual attendees to engage in a scavenger hunt by forming teams. To locate things on a list, teams will have to navigate the virtual event space. This will allow team members to network and encourage participants to interact with the event content.
Virtual Escape Room
To survive the coronavirus pandemic, many escape room companies have moved their attention to an online format. Take advantage of this! Contact local escape room companies to see if they can collaborate with you to create a custom escape room for your event. The room should be themed around a particular industry or something else that will appeal to each person who attends. Attendees can create their groups again, or you can use the information collected during registration to match teams and allocate them at the beginning of the meeting.
Virtual Cocktail Hour
For most virtual attendees, staring at a computer screen all day is tedious. Add a fun session or two to keep things interesting. You can build a virtual cocktail lounge and host a small party/networking event using a virtual event platform like Accelevents. Send a special gift to each virtual attendee to inspire greater attendance and participation. For example, send a small bottle of wine, cocktail ingredients, or a craft beer sample. Encourage local sponsors to contribute by helping them provide these things or putting their name on them. In this case, remember to be respectful and responsible, and have an alcohol-free alternative. Registration allows for the collection of preferences and information. Consider giving your cocktail hour a theme and have guests dress up for the occasion. This allows remote attendees to showcase their imagination when interacting and mingling with the rest of the attendees.
Private Social Media Groups
Social media sites are great virtual networking ideas for pre-event marketing and building enthusiasm, but they’re also great for networking opportunities during and after the event. You will keep the discussions (and networking!) going long after the event is over by forming private groups and welcoming attendees. This concept is ideal for Facebook. Create a group and ask leading questions to improve audience interest and interaction. Group members may begin to naturally associate with others, reducing the need for extensive facilitation or supervision.
When you host an online gathering, you will gather a lot of data from your participants. Attendees can be matched based on their business sector and objectives using this information. You may form small networking groups in advance incorporate them during a scheduled networking session. You might also set up a speed dating scenario. Set up a virtual conference room and assign a “table” to a certain number of members while the rest of the group moves from table to table in an orderly fashion. As a result, you’ll be able to introduce as many people as possible.
Virtual Gathering Spaces
As an event planner, you’re well aware that guests often mingle and network outside of specified spaces and activities. Although these networking opportunities aren’t always available at online events, you can create them. Ensure your virtual event room has a virtual lobby or lounge where guests can ‘hang out in between sessions. For example, attendee avatars or personas might talk with one another while waiting for the next session or the keynote speaker’s address. Remo is perfect for this as it has a breakout room feature.
Pre-Event Photo Contest
Often, the most effective networking occurs before the case. Encourage attendees to share something personal about themselves or information about their current business needs before the event starts, to connect with their fellow attendees. Additionally, it can be used to create a lighthearted, welcoming atmosphere before the beginning of the show. Marla Everett, CMP, CMM, CITP, Director of Consultancy Solutions at Event Travel Management, recommends this strategy based on her experience developing pre-event-themed competitions using event applications. “For one event, invitees were encouraged to send in a selfie of their outfit that fit the theme and also their ‘at-home event spread’,” says Everett. Allowing visitors to engage and contribute to the content before the show’s start will enable participants to meet in advance and encourages increased engagement during the event itself, regardless of whether the pre-event contest is humorous or more business-oriented.
Because getting a cup of coffee is one of the most common ways for people to communicate and discuss business needs, bringing it into the digital space can be an excellent way to motivate attendees to engage. That is how the Coffee Talk feature from Virtual With Us, a company specializing in digital events, came to be. Individuals who sign up for the case will receive the Coffee Chat Community Members List, as well as a coffee kit containing four distinct artisanal coffees and a personal french press. “To kick off the event, the panel will introduce themselves to the audience and discuss a few highlighted topics,” explains Henry Guttilla, Executive Creative Director for Virtual With Us. “Coffee Chats will begin immediately following the conclusion of the discussion. As a result, attendees will be able to network and spend time one-on-one with individuals.”
Whether it’s a true story, historic, or a fable, storytelling allows attendees to interact enjoyably. Mercat Tours, a walking tour and storytelling company based in Scotland, has taken the approach mentioned above, virtualizing its in-person travel experiences. An excellent virtual storyteller seeks ways to engage the audience, whether it’s by collaborating on a story or making them share their own stories.
Allowing people to share their interests, backgrounds, or hobbies meaningfully is an effective way to engage them in conversation. Icebreaker.video features hundreds of games that all share a standard format: a compelling theme and a few thought-provoking questions that are sure to get people talking. For example, the Wanderlust game asks, “How much time have you spent underground, underwater, in the air, or the wilderness?” “Have you ever encountered a potentially dangerous animal?” and “Have you ever had any close encounters with a dangerous animal?” “How do you feel about the conventional career advice to follow your passion?”, one question in the company’s Motivation Nation game asks. Frequently, the responses to these questions are amusing before escalating into a more serious discussion. In conclusion, virtual activities and events are here to stay, and new virtual networking ideas are being experimented and refined all the time. Use these ideas as a jumping-off point, but don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things, as we’ve just scratched the surface of what virtual events can do.