Why Virtual Event Networking Is So Important
Virtual events offer a convenient solution to the challenge of bringing together geographically dispersed audiences. They’re more affordable, environmentally friendly, and accessible to attend for many people.
However, you don’t want to sacrifice networking for convenience. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to make meaningful connections while attending a fully virtual event. Between virtual meetings, chats, and recommendation engines, attendees can find networking opportunities that suit their schedule and communication style.
Whether you’re attending an upcoming virtual event or planning one, here is why networking is so important at virtual events.
Virtual Event Networking Starts Earlier
Networking is one of the main benefits of attending conferences and industry events. However, many organizers and attendees worry that they won’t have satisfactory networking opportunities at virtual events.
Actually, the opposite can be true. Virtual events can provide greater networking opportunities. This is because virtual events take advantage of many of the actions we already take before an event, and use them to provide attendees with opportunities to network and build relationships.
If you were traveling to an in-person event, you’d likely research restaurants nearby and entertainment or culture activities that you can do while in town. You might research some headlining speakers or reach out to existing business contacts to see if they’re attending, but you’d probably save most of your networking for the event itself. Once you get there, you may not know who to talk to and could miss out on interesting and productive networking opportunities. Virtual events make it simple. Before a virtual event, you can research and reach out to others that are planning to attend. You can start conversations, research their backgrounds, and set up meetings to occur during the virtual conference or event.
Networking Is One of the Main Reasons People Attend Events
In a Markletic survey, respondents reported that networking was the second most popular reason for joining a virtual event. It came second only to education.
This demonstrates what we already know; providing a solid mix of high quality content and interactive networking opportunities is key to the success of a virtual event. Afterall, content and networking are 2 out of the 3 pillars of a successful event.
Data from our past events show that when networking opportunities are offered, people take advantage of them. International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) hosted their Quarterly Partner Briefing on Social27 Event Platform earlier this year. The two-day event had 853 attendees, and resulted in 5,417 connections being made between attendees! IAMCP’s attendees took advantage of chats, virtual meetings, round tables, and recorded videos to build connections throughout the event.
Networking Provides Enhanced Learning Opportunities
As we just discussed, education is the primary draw for many virtual event attendees, followed by networking. However, networking in itself presents opportunities for education and learning.
Networking with others who have more experience in the field or who work in different areas of the country can provide useful insight and opportunities to learn from peers. Talking to others about their personal career trajectories, business practices, or research is a great way to expand your horizons and pick up some genuine advice.
Making Dispersed Audiences Feel Less Distant
Bringing together audiences across the country, or across the world, is what makes hosting a virtual event great. Combining geographically dispersed audiences allows for a wider diversity of ideas and perspectives that contribute to more meaningful discussions. However, we don’t want attendees to feel like they’re across the world from one another.
Event organizers should be purposeful in creating opportunities for viewer engagement and networking so that attendees don’t feel distant. Without a networking component, virtual events can feel like you’re just watching television or listening to a podcast at home alone. Networking takes your event to the next level by adding more energy, information-sharing, and excitement.
Networking Opens Up Opportunities
If you talk to people that have experienced a high degree of success in their chosen field, they’ll probably tell you that networking is part of what got them to where they are. In fact, networking and relationship building is often touted as one of the large benefits of attending prestigious schools, joining sororities or fraternities, or participating in alumni networks. It’s also the basis of one of the biggest social media platforms, LinkedIn.
The popularity of LinkedIn and the success stories around the people that use it serve as proof that virtual networking works. Connections can be made virtually that can lead to sales, business partnerships, job opportunities, and more.
Virtual events are a prime opportunity to expand your professional network. Regardless of your role in the event, networking can open up a variety of opportunities.
Sponsors and exhibitors invest their resources into events in order to get in front of prospective customers. Networking lounges or happy hours provide an additional way for sponsors to get in front of their target audience and start conversations. Even if they don’t close a deal on the spot, they can still build connections that may turn into sales down the road and expand brand awareness. These networking activities are a great way for sponsors to reach attendees that may not visit their booths or exhibitor sites.
Networking is a great way to find your next job, partnership, or client. Expanding your professional network is a great way to find referrals for business or career prospects. As discussed above, it’s also a major learning opportunity. You may run into someone with the position you hope to have later in your career, or who is working at your dream company – you can learn a lot from speaking with them.
Even the event organizers can benefit from networking. Networking can be a great way to find sponsors and vendors for future events. You may also be able to meet prospective clients or partners for events or other business ventures. It’s also a great way to speak with attendees to solicit helpful feedback on what they are enjoying about the event and any suggestions that they have to improve the experience.
Networking Opportunities Help Break Up the Day
Setting aside some time in the event schedule for attendees to talk to one another in a networking lounge, happy hour/lunch hour, or through other mediums gives them a much-needed break.
Zoom fatigue is a daunting problem for virtual event organizers and participants. It can be draining to spend too much time in front of a screen trying to absorb information from presenters. Networking activities can be built into the schedule to add variety and give attendees time to speak and socialize rather than just listening and observing.
Virtual Events Provide Different Types of Networking Opportunities
One of the greatest things about attending a virtual event is the ability to choose how you interact. You can watch sessions live and chat along with the speaker and other viewers, or you can catch up on sessions you missed by watching on-demand video recordings. The same is true for networking opportunities.
It’s also good to provide asynchronous options so that attendees in different time zones can still participate in discussions and network with one another.
Similarly, it can be intimidating to approach others at events when face-to-face. Salespeople and exhibitor reps may feel comfortable starting conversations with passing attendees, but the average attendee may have trouble sparking conversations with strangers. Virtual events can alleviate this anxiety by providing more casual or text-only opportunities to connect, and by pointing you in the right direction so that you can spark conversations with those with compatible interests.
Chat features are a great way to encourage viewer engagement throughout sessions as well as to provide networking opportunities throughout the event.
Chats can be moderated or unmoderated depending on the purpose of the chat. Moderated chats are great for sponsored chats or engaging with event speakers around a central topic. Networking chats can have a moderator to guide the conversation and keep everyone engaged, or they can just be open unmoderated discussions.
Chats can be a great casual way for attendees to engage with others in a low-pressure manner. This can be really helpful for those trying to break out of their shell and start networking, or attendees that have to balance other distractions in the home such as children doing schoolwork.
Virtual meeting rooms are a classic way to connect during virtual events. Small group video calls can be a great opportunity to network and get to know others better.
Roundtables allow attendees to create their own small-group video meetings with up to 5 other participants. These meetings can be private or set to public to allow new members to join and network. These are more intimate to allow a small group to get to know one another in an uncrowded setting. This is a great option for people that aren’t comfortable speaking up to larger groups or strangers or for occasions when you want to have a more focused small-group discussion. Anyone can schedule or start a Roundtable from within the event platform.
Boardrooms are designed to host virtual meetings for larger groups. Boardrooms allow for up-to 15 users on Social27 MeetUp and up to 30 users on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This is a great way to get acquainted with more people or have larger discussions on a topic or session of interest.
Allowing attendees to record and share videos introducing themselves or sharing their thoughts on a topic discussed during the event can be a great way to encourage networking. Some events also allow attendees to pre-record videos asking speakers or sponsors questions for event sessions.
Social27 Virtual Event Platform offers two features that utilize short recorded videos; Hello World! And Soapbox.
Hello World! videos are short 30 second videos that allow attendees’ personalities and interests shine through a video introduction. Being able to put a face to the name and get a feel for their personality can make it less intimidating for other attendees to reach out to someone that they’d like to connect with to network.
Soapbox videos are short videos recorded to share an opinion or thought or spark discussion. If an attendee feels strongly about something, they can record a Soapbox video to start a conversation with other attendees. This prompts a healthy sharing of ideas through ongoing asynchronous discussion.
We know that networking is important, but what’s even more important is networking with the right people. Sometimes it can be challenging to find the right people to talk to in a crowded event center. Virtual events eliminate the hassle by providing you an easier way to find people in your industry and interest-areas to connect with.
Virtual events can include attendee directories or recommendation engines to simplify the process. For example, Social27 Virtual Event Platform features a recommendation engine that provides attendees with recommendations for sessions, speakers, sponsors, and other attendees that are aligned with their interests and event goals.
Virtual Event Networking Creates a Lasting Impression
If you’re investing your time into attending an event, you want to leave feeling as though you have gained something. Participating in networking activities at an event is a great way to ensure that you sign off of the event with new friends, business connections, or possible clients. Virtual events also provide the added benefit for participants of getting a headstart on networking before the event, so you have more time to develop meaningful relationships.
For event organizers, your goal is of course to leave a lasting impression on your audience. If attendees make valuable connections with fellow attendees and sponsors, they’re more likely to remember your event and speak favorably of it to others. This helps encourage attendance at future events that you put on.
Social27 Virtual Event Platform Is Built For Networking
Social27 Virtual Event Platform has all of the tools you need to encourage networking at your next event. There is something built for every attendee whether they prefer face-to-face networking or chatrooms, synchronous or asynchronous communication, or need a little help locating the right people to talk to for their interests.
Set up a demo today to learn how Social27 can help you expertly incorporate networking into your next virtual event.