Jul 09, 2020
Shaking hands, exchanging business cards and making eye contacts are how we build professional connections at events. When these face-to-face interactions disappear in to the virtual setting, it begs the question: how do we connect at virtual events?
As one of the main objectives of attending events, networking opportunities with peers and speakers are crucial to a successful event. It's true that face-to-face interactions might be off the table in virtual settings, but that doesn't mean you can't build meaningful relationships. In fact, if you plan your events properly, virtual networking can be as effective, and even less intimidating than in-person networking.
5 Tips to Facilitate Professional Relationship Building for Your Attendees
1. Create a Community for Information and Communication
In order to encourage networking before an event, you can create a resource that provides information about all the attendees and speakers and allows communications beforehand. There are two ways you can create this community: social media and event apps.
With social media, you can start by sharing links to your social media profile pages in the event registration email. Create a hashtag specifically for the event and post information, share related news and ask questions using the hashtag. Additionally, you can create event groups on Facebook or LinkedIn for event attendees to share ideas and network with each other. Appoint someone on your team a community manager to spark discussion and create activity on the page. With event apps like EventMobi and Whova, you can easily put all the information about speakers and attendees on the app. Features like smart profiles and digital business card can facilitate one-on-one chat, smart communications and attendee matchmaking.
1. Provide Networking Time and Breakout Sessions
With virtual events, remember to designate a time for networking sessions that allow attendees to connect with peers in one on one and speakers in small breakout groups. There are many ways to set these sessions up with the wide variety of video conferencing platforms you can use. You can split attendees into breakout rooms based on similar interests to encourage conversation around topics. Allowing for private chats and rooms that randomly pair you with a new person every 3 minutes like Hopin will provide more one-on-one networking opportunities. Virtual cocktail hours and virtual lobbies are another possibility to offer space for attendees to talk and to meetup.
2. Utilize Icebreaking and Gamification Tools
Sometimes networking can be very intimidating. If you're introverted you might have cringed at that very word. Tools that help with icebreaking, engaging people and creating fun interactions will facilitate natural communication and relationship building, especially in virtual settings. Audience response tools can get people more comfortable interacting, and trigger discussions about results after the exercise. With creativity tools like Piccles, attendees will enjoy a brain break and create psychological safety to encourage interaction. By creating a friendly competition vibe using gamification tools, you can split people into groups and spur fun interactions among attendees.
3. Engage in Live Chat and Q&A Conversations
When people attend in-person events, Q&A sessions are always a great opportunity to create connection with speakers and to leave a positive impression. Sometimes live questions and responses will spark ongoing conversations offline as well. When events are going virtual, you should also be aware of the relationship building through live chat and Q&A. Encourage attendees to ask questions during live speeches or presentations. Assign one moderators to monitor the chat and ask the speaker relevant questions from there. In addition, don't forget to schedule Q&A sessions after each live speech for attendees to encourage active dialogues - these are often the most engaging part of the speech.
1. Keeping Communications Going through Social Media
Networking doesn't end with the event. It is necessary to follow up with people you have talked to during an event in order to build meaningful, long-term relationship. However, attendees sometimes don't remember to follow up for virtual networking due to the lack of face-to-face connection. As event planners, you can encourage ongoing communications among attendees through social media which will provide a more casual and fun way of interaction. As we mentioned before, hashtags and social media groups specifically for the event can create a sense of community. Keep posting, connecting and replying with stories and learnings from the event and share post-event promotions that create a positive vibe and incentivize participation. You can also create specific social media campaigns after the event event to encourage experience-share among attendees and spark interaction.
Without shaking hands, exchanging business cards and making eye contact, networking at virtual events can also bring incredible value for attendees to build meaningful, professional relationships. As event attendee myself, I'm hoping to have more networking opportunities for the events I will be attending. So, don't underestimate the importance of networking at your next virtual event and go get started with the tips above. Wishing you many connections at your next event!☀️
Thank you for reading!
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