Let’s face it (pun intended) virtual networking is difficult. There’s just something about looking someone in the eye and a firm handshake that still screams professionalism and leaves a positive impression. Not to mention, it provides the best opportunity for an in-depth conversation. However, given the hybrid and virtual event landscape that we have seen increase in volume during the pandemic, we know that virtual networking needs to improve as it is here to stay. So here are a few tips from the event pros at Bluewater to make virtual networking a breeze.
Make it intimate
Networking in large general sessions doesn’t work well in person, so why should it work virtually? We’ve seen way too much of this throughout the pandemic. Event planners and producers need to find ways to create small intimate virtual spaces. Think 3-6 people. This can be as simple as a breakout room, or a topic space where attendees with similar job titles can go to intermingle and virtually share ideas and experiences. This gives the attendees ample opportunity to connect and makes certain that everyone can be heard.
It Doesn’t Always Have to Be Business Related.
Gamification is soaring both inside and outside of the event landscape. Creating a space where virtual attendees can unwind after a serious town hall, or training seminar can be extremely therapeutic. But that’s not the only benefit. Competing, laughing, and joking around with other attendees provides the perfect opportunity to get to know them in a much more relaxed setting. Even something as simple as a game of virtual checkers can provide the opportunity for attendees to talk about their passions, their families, or any number of other non work related items.
Place an Emphasis on Contact Information
Not all virtual networking has to take place during the event itself. Providing multiple opportunities for attendees to share and capture contact information with and from other attendees allows for post event follow-up. It can also be less intimidating to send someone a post event email, or invite them to a webinar for the introverts out there. Providing contact lists to attendees post conference is something that can make a lot of sense for some virtual events as well. The bottom line is, as someone managing an event you want to provide your attendees with a way to connect when the event is over, and you certainly want them talking about how great your event was.
One of the best ways to virtually network is by attracting people to talk to you. If attendees are able to show others that they are an industry expert for instance, then they are more likely to be approached in a virtual session or breakout room. Event planners and producers need to provide spaces to share attendee credentials, or a fun fact about them etc… We want to peak the interests of others and provide an initial talking point for the attendees to strike up a conversation.
You need to support the speakers by reflecting on their comments, provide an opportunity to recap or highlight their presentations, and then connect with with audience in small groups or even in some cases. 1-1 . As an attendee, it’s best to let people know you are open to having a conversation and networking. Don’t be the best-kept secret at the event, be active in virtual chats, share an idea in a small group session, or ask a question in the general session.
This is true of both the attendee and those managing the event. Make sure you are dressed to impress as a remote attendee who will be virtually networking. Know the room and the appropriate attire even if you are sitting in your living room. Make sure you are technically ready. Nothing kills a networking session like poor audio, or a bad connection. Better yet, make sure your background is appropriate, and your space is well lit. Just like you might in an in-person scenario, be prepared to take notes, and leave little reminders for use in the future about the virtual networking conversations you have. Prepare what you want to say ahead of time (know your elevator pitch), and then rehearse it virtually. This can be done by watching yourself on Zoom for instance, and it serves as a technical run through as well.
If you’d like to hear more about virtual networking, or you’d like to see how Bluewater can help with your next virtual event, hybrid conference, or live event, contact us today here.