Networking has a wide range of advantages that are important to consider. On the one hand, it is an extraordinary opportunity to give greater visibility to a particular brand or company. On the other hand, it allows companies to study the competition in a detailed and specific way.
In addition, it improves communication and professional skills. In this type of conference, companies have the opportunity to participate in very dynamic debates and talks on topics of interest to them. They have the opportunity to both learn and contribute knowledge.
And, finally, these types of events are excellent for meeting new suppliers or other companies with which to collaborate. All with the clear objective of improving the customer experience and increasing the profitability of the business.
These are some of the main points you need to know about how to organize a virtual networking event. Events where great business opportunities are created. Beyond formal events, a simple talk or any opportunity in which a company foresees that professionals interested in it will attend is also valid. It is about exchanging knowledge, experiences and opinions about a specific topic.
Why virtual networking works
How to host a virtual networking event – the answer lies in finding creative ways to replicate the conversations that occur during a face-to-face networking session. This will be critical for attendees to get value out of this opportunity and the main event in general. Virtual networking works, it’s just a matter of creating the right dynamic and environment for your guests
Networking allows you to create a network of contacts with people who share interests related to your business. At these events, you can meet business people and entrepreneurs who can help you generate business opportunities.
However, organizing an event of this type is not so simple, especially with the social distancing measures, in which the meetings are done electronically. But just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you can’t build business relationships.
Read also: 5 Creative Virtual Event Ideas for Companies
How to run a virtual networking session
Here are some general tips to get you started in planning your virtual networking session:
- Ensure the technical quality to offer a seamless experience, similar to that of a face-to-face event.
- Choose the platform that best suits your needs. A networking session can work on virtually any platform if the planning is adequate, although you can certainly benefit from more sophisticated platforms.
- Send the invitation to the participants with clear instructions on how to access the platform, the link and the password. Do not forget to mention if it is necessary to install any software or application and offer assistance.
- Limit the number of participants, some people recommend no more than eight so that everyone has a chance to participate. A virtual networking session can be chaotic, so you can create several breakout rooms with smaller capacity and let participants choose and change rooms.
In addition to creating general networking rooms, keep in mind that different people may feel more comfortable in different networking environments. Depending on the profiles of your attendees, you can create rooms with different themes or dynamics. This is where your creativity comes in to create satisfying networking environments and experiences for participants.
Try to enter a few minutes before the session so that, as in a face-to-face event, you can welcome those who are joining. It is also an opportunity to clarify doubts, get to know their expectations and generate conversation and trust.
Making a round of brief introductions and even including some general questions is a way for participants to get to know each other and start the conversation. People value the ability to share their personal information as easily as they share their business cards. Offering this type of solution within the virtual environment will be a great benefit.
It is important to ensure that the participants can interact and that they are at ease. One advantage of a virtual event is the possibility of gathering people from different parts of the world in the same place and at the same time, even if they are far away. The duration of the session should not exceed 90 minutes, because it can become boring.
We also advise you to keep the meetings with small groups. These events should flow smoothly, without rushing or interruptions, so a maximum of 10 people is a manageable number. When setting the meeting time, consider the different time zones of the participants.
In addition to facilitating access to the video conference, you should also provide information on how to participate, in case there are people who are unfamiliar with the platform you have chosen.
Ideally, use intuitive and popular applications so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining how to use video calling programs. If your guests are not very proficient with digital tools, you can create a short video tutorial explaining how to connect and the rules of virtual etiquette.
Create a family atmosphere. If guests don’t know each other, send an email introducing each person a few days beforehand, and share information from their professional networks, such as LinkedIn.
It is crucial to send a welcome message along with the objectives of the meeting and a description of what is expected of each participant. For example, a drink for a virtual toast or perhaps tell a short anecdote they may have experienced in childhood or in the workplace. This is a good technique to break the ice and generate organic connections.
The focus is on the guests, not you. If the meeting is focused on you, the probability that your event will be a failure is very high. The focus should be on building trust and credibility, not selling products and services. Concentrate on what you can offer the participants, in terms of learning, fun and autonomy.
The recommended duration for a virtual networking session is 60 to 90 minutes. This will allow enough time for people to get comfortable and build trust but will allow you to cut off before people get tired. If the conversation is flowing, it’s good to have a plan in place to make it easy for participants to stay in touch or meet up later without losing the thread.
Enable the chat function so that participants can engage with each other. As host, this communication channel also allows you to prevent the most talkative person from taking over the event. Remember that everyone should participate equally.
It may be necessary to interrupt a participant’s speech to bring back interest and encourage everyone’s expression. It is advisable to have some questions prepared in advance. Another strategy is to announce the duration of each activity or round of questions and answers. In this way, everyone will be aware of the length of participation.
After the meeting, send a personalized email to each person thanking them for their participation. By agreement with all participants, you can share everyone’s contact information so they can identify opportunities and connect even after the session.
To create a better impression as a host company, you can send some small gifts to the participants. Choose everyday objects that serve as souvenirs and are related to your company’s activity.
You can send pens or notebooks personalized with your brand. If you are in the restaurant business, you can give away advertising lighters, or perhaps a USB memory stick if your business is related to technology. Networking can be very efficient if you know how to take advantage of it. You just have to organize your event with the right intention and with the central objective of giving more than receiving.
The fact that face-to-face meetings are limited today because of the pandemic does not mean that business relationships are on hold; circumstances have simply forced us to look for ways to initiate and maintain these relationships effectively in a virtual environment.
Networking sessions can offer great experiences
Just as corporate events, conferences and congresses have been successfully held online, it is possible to continue networking sessions over the Internet, especially as the platforms on which they are held continue to improve to offer experiences as good as those that can be had at a face-to-face event. And then it’s not so difficult anymore to find out about how to host a virtual networking event.
Networking sessions continue to be important for people who are used to attend events, as now more than ever they seek and value opportunities to meet people, engage in conversations with other professionals, make important contacts and generate business opportunities, therefore, if you are organizing a virtual event having networking sessions within the program will help you not only to do your own networking but to attract more attendees.
In a face-to-face event, people can choose with whom to have a private conversation or not, either with a smaller group or 1 to 1. Offering the opportunity to do so without obstacles, either within the same platform or with specific recommendations is a plus that will be appreciated.
Virtual events are not only spaces for learning, demonstrations and sales, they also make it possible for us to continue to build partnerships and business relationships. Providing this opportunity to your event attendees and making it an enjoyable and valuable experience will be of great value to your own organization’s reputation and relationships.
Remember to include the networking opportunities in the planning and dedicate as much time and effort to it as to the main sessions of the event. This is how to host a virtual networking event and be profitable with it.