Virtual events offer attendees an experience similar to in-person events. These online events provide attendees access to information and industry leaders from the comfort of their homes. However, a significant challenge of virtual events is recreating the networking experience of a real event.
Although there’s a unique sense of connection when you shake hands or exchange business cards with your industry peers, that doesn’t mean that virtual events offer no networking possibilities at all. In fact, if properly planned, you can easily host a virtual event that encourages networking among your attendees. For some, virtual networking may even be less intimidating than networking in person.
Here are some key ways to foster networking at your next virtual event.
Use a virtual platform that facilitates networking
While it may not be possible to exchange business cards in person, virtual events offer an ample amount of opportunities to network. This begins with your choice of virtual event platform. To facilitate meaningful connections, use a platform that provides attendees an option to meet each other virtually.
For example, once attendees join the event, the platform should provide them a messaging facility to set up one-on-one virtual meetings, video calls, and appointments. It should also allow you to use registration data of attendees and set up chat rooms based on similar interests or have them join breakout sessions to facilitate networking.
Get the most out of social media
Make sure to remain active on all social media platforms to facilitate connections between attendees. Assign a hashtag specific to your event and promote it across all the sessions. Connect, follow, share, comment, and reply to people talking about your event to encourage further online interactions.
Create special event groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, where only event attendees can join and share their ideas, collaborate, and network with each other. Keep posting questions, polls, and insights throughout the event to keep people engaged.
Take advantage of other communication tools
Communicating regular event updates and announcements is vital to keep your audience engaged. While you can achieve this using social media, business communication tools such as Slack gives an opportunity for attendees to make new connections at your virtual event.
Create a Slack workspace and use it as a central communication space. Organize polls, respond to questions, and keep your attendees engaged with different channels based on various networking interests. The workspace will also facilitate meaningful post-event connections for your attendees.
Use event apps that allow people matching
Your event attendees are always looking for people who share the same interests or are from their target industries. Facilitate this networking using event apps that allow people to match based on registrants’ data.
These apps will allow scheduling one-on-one “brain dates," or meetings for your attendees with personalized connections. This fun way of interaction fosters effective networking between people who may not get the opportunity to connect otherwise.
Organize “just for fun” sessions
Instead of making attendees sit for hours and stream event content, create some fun moments between sessions to recapture their attention. For example, you can set up virtual coffee break rooms where people can join for casual talk while enjoying their real coffee.
It’s a great idea to give your attendees a quick boost of energy by organizing small workout sessions, asking attendees to stand, stretch, or move their bodies. Fun sessions can also include a round of ice-breaker questions to spark conversations between people. Or, you can set up a contest and award the winners during these breaks.
Use gamification to encourage attendees to meet more people
Everyone loves to play games. Why not use them to encourage networking at virtual events? With puzzles, memory games, or training sessions, you can keep attendees engaged. Use a point system to achieve better engagement. For example, attendees must network with a set number of people to unlock access to VIP meetings or discount coupons from sponsors.
With technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), it’s even possible to take gamification to a whole new level. Think of “Pokemon Go” like AR game that takes attendees on virtual scavenger hunts to collect points and win prizes. You can also set up friendly competitions between attendees to offer a fun and interactive way to introduce your brand or products.
Host a virtual event that your attendees won’t forget
The success of your event depends on how many meaningful connections the attendees walked away with. While it may be challenging to replicate the networking experiences of an in-person event in a virtual one, you’ll need to look at this problem creatively and bank on virtual networking opportunities.
Effective networking between attendees in a virtual event relies on what virtual platform you’re using. Explore InfernoAR, a unique virtual event platform that leverages AR technology to generate highly-engaging and immersive experiences for your event attendees. Book a live demo or get in touch.