In a recent Condé Nast survey, 90% of respondents said that even once live events are back, they would still be interested in virtual event options. Virtual events gained popularity in the late-2000s due to their economical and practical advantages and have skyrocketed since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The ability to work remotely has kept many companies afloat during these unprecedented times. Virtual networking events, which are crucial for business success, continue to remain popular. A study by Forbes suggests that for 78% of businesses, networking is vital to gain visibility, deepen knowledge, and gain new leads.
If you’re unfamiliar with online networking or need inspiration, look no further; we’ve put together some innovative virtual networking ideas.
The cliché “no man is an island” applies to man and business. A company’s ecosystem is fueled by human connectedness, whether through employees, clients, or customers. When done with intent, business networking can yield profitable results. Virtual networking events provide a superb opportunity for sharing business acumen and industry knowledge. You might discover alternative approaches to widespread problems or come across another business with whom you can develop a symbiotic partnership.
Business networking events can also elevate your profile and bring in new leads. Virtually meeting “face-to-face” provides substantial exposure, and potential clients are more likely to work with businesses whose owners or employees they recognize or have “met.” In general, clients favor human-centric approaches. You never know when you might meet someone who could refer you to prospective clients or make use of your products and/or services themselves.
Networking also builds business confidence and reveals competitive insights. Many business owners dread networking. However, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. At virtual networking events, you’ll soon get to know what your competitors are offering, and you can use these insights to improve your competitive advantage. This will help you learn how to differentiate yourself from your competition.
A good reputation is an invaluable and intangible asset to any business. Increased networking secures a reputation of reliability. Through participation in events, you can establish a fantastic rapport with potential clients, showcasing your knowledge and positioning you as a leading expert in your field.
While virtual networking doesn’t elicit the same kinds of organic conversations you might have during a conference lunch break on a trade room floor, there are still many creative networking event ideas that foster new connections and meet-ups. The difference is that people tend to be more concise online than in person. Here are our top ideas to create a memorable experience for your virtual networking event:
Speed networking is one of the best virtual networking ideas for those who favor efficiency and targeted meet-and-greets. Ordinarily, the event is divided into rounds of 5-10 minutes, where each attendee is paired with another to introduce themselves and the types of services/products they offer.
It derives inspiration from speed dating and allows business owners to expand their network and initiate longer networking sessions with those they’re interested in after the event ends. In addition, it will enable introverted owners to meet others without increased pressure since everyone attending has a clear networking agenda.
This type of event requires more planning than speed networking as you’ll have to know in advance who to group with each other. Unlike speed networking, you can plan roundtables around specific themes related to your industry. Roundtables are a great networking idea if you have a large group of people, and you can divide attendees into break-out rooms, where they interact, collaborate, and ideate.
To streamline this type of event, you could use an application like Zoom that already has breakout room functionality. Roundtables are effective if you want to meet more people at the same time, as they reduce the time required when repeatedly sharing the same information on a one-on-one basis. The only additional element needed is a moderator who can preside over sessions and stimulate conversation.
One of the most popular networking mixer ideas is the revamped happy hour. Instead of going to a physical bar, firms are hosting virtual networking events with professional mixologists. You can send a cocktail kit with ice-breakers and business cards to each attendee beforehand, so they’re prepared for the session. After the lesson, you can facilitate open-format discussions or even switch to speed networking.
Trivia events can be held during lunch hours or evenings for fun or fundraising. Some businesses hire companies to run their trivia games, while others manage the event themselves. You can generate remote teams and create questions that relate to your specific industry or event.
Trivia games force teams to communicate, and the sense of friendly competition forges relationships that may not occur naturally. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, your questions might relate to current challenges and trends and speak to different members’ expertise. You can also strategically group different attendees to foster new connections.
Fireside chats are informal but structured interviews between guests and moderators. They provide a relaxed opportunity to get to know the speaker/s on a professional level and are a great tool to add to your list of conference networking ideas.
Inviting a high-profile speaker provides an opportune situation to connect with them on a personal level. You can strategically invite a speaker with whom you’ve wanted to communicate with but might not have had a chance. Paired with networking, this type of event provides immense value for attendees from a knowledge-sharing and business connection perspective.
Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for ‘chit-chat. It’s a unique storytelling formula where a presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each, totaling 6 minutes and 40 seconds. At traditional Pecha Kucha nights, individuals gather to share personal presentations about their work. Even though it was originally executed in person, Pecha Kucha can easily be transformed into a digital format.
It’s considered more of a direct hard sell but is a great pitching platform to get real-time feedback about your services and/or products. While it won’t appeal to everyone, it can benefit business owners keen to get straight to networking without the small talk.
This type of virtual networking event requires more planning and commitment but helps facilitate direct interactions between businesses and potential clients or customers. Unlike Pecha Kucha events, virtual trade shows remain open for a few hours at a time, and individuals can interact freely and come and go as they please. This type of event offers the incomparable advantage of meeting people from all over the world, as it’s not limited to a physical space.
Ensuring your virtual networking ideas come to fruition can be quite a challenge. It’s not just about pulling off a seamless event; you also need to think about how to get the most from each experience.
Be sure to gather the relevant contact details of your attendees at each event. To save time, you can automate this process when they register. The salient point of networking is to increase your contact list. Even if you don’t require each other’s services immediately, you’ll start to build up a valuable resource of industry contacts.
Virtual networking events can be overwhelming for first-timers, so it’s important to have clear goals for what you’re anticipating to get out of the session. How many people do you want to meet? Can you hone in on the primary connections you’re hoping to make?
Most individuals experience screen fatigue when they’re online for too long, so you want to be sure you’re making the most of each moment. And remember, networking doesn’t have to end when the event is over. Follow-up with your new connections by reaching out to them on online platforms such as Linkedin or Slack. Schedule time to check in with them every so often to maintain your connection.
There’s nothing worse than Murphy’s law providing technical difficulties on the day of your event. If you’re hosting, make sure you have a contingency plan in case of audio breaks, lagging internet connection, and faulty software. Be sure to conduct a preliminary technical test beforehand to iron out any kinks.
You might also want to run through the order of events, i.e., introductions or interview questions beforehand, as well as familiarize yourself with any software you’re using to ensure everything goes well. Naturally, hiring star talent to host and specialists to take care of the technical aspects of your virtual networking event will always be the best fool-proof solution.
At Smartworks, we turn your networking event ideas into impactful virtual experiences. If you’re looking for premium HD and 4K live streaming solutions to elevate your event from average to excellent, we can help. Our robust AV capabilities and TV production studio create engaging experiences to help you leverage the most from your virtual networking events. Contact us today to learn more.