How To Hold A Successful Virtual Networking Event in 2024
Unlock the secrets to holding a virtual networking event in 2024. Engage attendees, leverage top platforms, and foster meaningful business connections.
You’ve probably felt it, right?
That tinge of FOMO when you hear about a fantastic virtual networking event, wishing you had the know-how to pull something similar off.
Well, you’re not alone.
But as any seasoned online event organizer would tell you, navigating this digital maze isn’t without its “You’re still on mute!” moments.
With this guide, you’ll organize virtual events like a pro, make meaningful connections, and maybe even laugh at the occasional tech snafu.
Get ready to take notes. Let’s give your attendees the best virtual networking session of their lives!
What is virtual networking?
Virtual networking is the digital approach to building and nurturing professional relationships.
It’s all about connecting with peers, mentors, and potential partners using online platforms. This can be through webinars, virtual events, or direct video calls.
The beauty of it? You can interact with professionals worldwide without leaving your home. This bridges the gaps and creates opportunities that are not feasible in traditional networking.
Virtual networking offers a flexible, efficient way to meet and collaborate, making global connections feel just a click away.
Why do you need to know how to organize a virtual networking event?
It’s 2024, and if there’s one thing that’s crystal clear; virtual events are no longer the future – they’re the present.
Virtual networking events are where it’s at! They’re the front-runners, offering a unique blend of convenience and global outreach.
Knowing how to put one together? It’s like having a golden ticket in the professional world.
- Reach: Ever wanted to chat with someone across the globe without hopping on a plane? Virtual networking sessions make it happen, pulling folks from everywhere into one virtual room.
- Flexibility: Remember when you missed an event because of traffic or last-minute hiccups? Virtual events save attendees from that, offering convenience and boosting participation.
- Cost-Efficiency: Consider the money saved without renting spaces or handling logistics. Virtual is the cost-friendly way to go.
- Adaptability: The digital landscape shifts like sand. Being on top of virtual event trends keeps you grounded and ahead of the curve.
- Building Credibility: A special kind of street cred comes from hosting a killer online event. It’s a feather in your cap, amplifying your reputation in your field.
So, if you’ve been toying with the idea, now’s the time to dive into virtual networking events. Because, trust me, the digital wave is only getting bigger, and you don’t want to be left on the shore.
Step-by-step instructions for planning a virtual networking event like a pro
At a glance, holding a virtual networking event feels overwhelming. But, like any other venture, it all boils down to following a process, planning, and execution.
Understanding the journey from start to finish ensures your event attendees have a memorable experience.
So, are you ready to get into the nitty-gritty and come out a virtual event maestro?
Let’s break it down into Pre-event, D-day, and Post-event.
1. Define the goal for your virtual networking session
Every successful event begins with a clear vision.
Pinpointing its primary purpose is paramount before you plan your networking session’s logistics.
Ask yourself: What’s the primary purpose of this virtual networking?
Consider the following when defining the purpose of your virtual networking event:
- Connection: Are you facilitating a space for industry professionals to meet and form valuable connections? Is it to build relationships among business professionals? Digital business cards come in handy for this.
- Knowledge Sharing: Is the main aim to allow experts to share insights, updates, or recent developments in a specific field?
- Collaboration: Perhaps you’re bringing together entrepreneurs, creatives, or innovators to spark collaborations on new projects or initiatives.
Or you aim to expand your professional network, generate leads, launch a product, or facilitate a space for like-minded individuals to share insights.
Whatever the goal, having a clear and defined plan ensures that your subsequent decisions align.
This will set the tone and guide event attendees on what to expect and how to prepare, enhancing the experience.
2. Determine what type of networking event it is
Determining the nature of your event is crucial. Is it an exclusive affair reserved for a select few? Or are you throwing open the virtual doors to anyone interested?
- Strictly by Invite: There’s a certain allure to exclusive events. They can offer a more controlled environment, ideal for deep discussions or targeted networking.
If you’re leaning towards this, get that invite list ready. Consider the group dynamics: you’ll want a mix of personalities and expertise to foster engaging conversations.
- Open to All: Broadening your event to a larger audience can bring diverse perspectives and foster unexpected connections. However, bear in mind the challenges.
Open virtual networking events sometimes feel like conversing in a bustling market square. You can mitigate this by using breakout rooms with smaller pods of attendees and periodically rotating the groups so everyone can connect.
Whether you opt for a select gathering or a large-scale digital conference, the nature of your attendee list is instrumental in defining the event’s ambiance and impact.
So, consider the advantages and challenges of each approach and select what aligns with your event’s objective.
3. Prepare the host
When planning a standout virtual networking event, having a solid host or keynote speaker can make or break the experience. The right host ensures everything flows smoothly.
First things first, check in with your chosen host or guest speaker before the event begins.
Review the agenda, the purpose of the event, and your expectations. This touchpoint allows the host to ask any clarifying questions and become familiar with how the virtual networking event will flow.
If you think it is necessary, you can also rehearse the event before the big day to ensure a smooth experience for the attendees.
4. Select a virtual event platform
Today’s digital landscape offers many virtual event platforms to facilitate networking. However, only some platforms will align perfectly with your objectives.
Here are some tips to guide your choice:
- Understand Your Needs: Are you organizing breakout rooms for smaller group conversations? Do you envision a session with virtual speed networking or storytelling? Ensure you select the platform with the necessary functionality to execute your event correctly.
- Technical Stability: Review and test the platform thoroughly to ensure it meets all technical requirements. After all, we don’t want any awkward virtual pauses!
- Scalability Matters: It may be a quaint virtual meet-up today, but what about larger virtual events in the future? Opt for a versatile virtual event platform that can grow with your ambitions.
- Engagement Features: Look for platforms that offer interactive tools. Features like breakout rooms, polls, Q&A sessions, annotations, and chat functions can foster engagement and make your event more interactive.
- Ease of Use: Some of your attendees might not be tech-savvy. Opt for an intuitive platform with a user-friendly interface. This ensures event attendees can easily navigate, engage in relevant conversations, and establish new connections without tech hiccups.
- Budget Constraints: While some platforms offer free versions, others might require a subscription or a one-time fee. Draw your budget and choose a platform that delivers the best value for your investment.
Remember, just as the venue is critical for in-person events, the online platform sets the stage for your virtual networking event.
5. Send the invites
Think of invites as rolling out the red carpet for your attendees.
For those by-invitation-only events, personalize your approach. Send out individual invites that make each recipient feel like they’re getting an exclusive ticket to something special.
If your doors are open to a broader audience, spread the word in style. Whip up some standout flyers or captivating graphics. Promote the event on social media, and maybe even get a shout-out in a few industry newsletters.
Here’s a little value nugget: While you’ll want to get the word out in advance, consider sending the actual virtual platform link on the day of the event.
Why? It reduces the “Oops, lost the link” moments, ensuring everyone hops in smoothly.
So, your invites are the first impression, whether it’s an exclusive gathering or a big virtual bash. Make them count!
6. Send reminders!!!
Lastly, don’t forget to send reminders.
We’ve all had moments where an event slips our mind, right?
So, shoot over a reminder to your attendees. A friendly “Don’t forget about our virtual networking event!” encourages enthusiasm.
Some channels you can use to remind attendees about the virtual event are social media, email, code texting and internal communication platforms like Slack or Teams.
And a quick nudge just before the event starts? Perfect for pulling everyone in. It’s all about ensuring everyone’s set and ready to participate.
7. Start the virtual event promptly.
You’ve heard the saying, “First impressions last” right? In virtual networking, punctuality plays a significant role in setting the right impression.
Kick-starting your event right on the dot showcases professionalism and respect for your attendees’ time.
Imagine logging into an event and having to wait in a digital limbo. It’s not the most reassuring start, is it?
To avoid this, it’s crucial to show up at least 15 minutes earlier to set everything up.
Attendees feel they’re in capable hands when things begin as scheduled. It sets a positive tone, building anticipation for what’s to come.
Plus, let’s be honest: everyone’s time is precious. By starting promptly, you’re saying, “Hey, we value your time, and we’re here to make every minute count.”
So, as D-day dawns double-check your tech, have your agenda close by, and hit that ‘start’ button right when it’s time.
8. Follow through on your agenda
Remember that detailed list of activities you prepared? Now’s the time to tick them off one by one.
Your pre-planned list of activities is not just a checklist; it’s a commitment. You want to meet expectations to preserve the event’s credibility and satisfy participants. After all, falling short might let down those who were keen on particular segments of the event.
However, here’s where
many events hit a snag: time management.
While engaging discussions and lively debates are the heart of networking, overrunning the allotted time can be a real party spoiler.
On virtual meeting platforms, where the clock’s ticking, meetings can abruptly end when your time’s up.
A bit of advice? Always have a buffer.
Setting up a 90-minute slot could be a lifesaver if your event will span an hour. It provides that extra cushion for unforeseen delays or those moments when the conversation’s too good to cut short.
While it’s essential to go with the flow and adapt, it’s equally vital to be mindful of the clock. After all, you want your event to wrap up on a high note, not in the middle of someone’s sentence.
9. Engage the attendees
What’s a networking event without that lively back-and-forth, those meaningful exchanges, and the thrill of making a new connection? As the host, ensuring everyone feels involved and heard is your gig.
Lean into the tools at your disposal. Encourage participants to use the chat feature for side conversations or to share resources.
But don’t let them hide behind the chatbox all day. Prompt attendees to unmute their mics or use the hand raise feature when they want to speak. Let voices be heard, ideas shared, and a few laughs exchanged.
And if you really want to shake things up? Give speed networking a shot.
It’s like the fun, fast-paced cousin of traditional networking.
Break attendees into smaller groups or pairs, give them a few minutes to chat, and rotate. It’s a fantastic way to ensure everyone meets a variety of participants, exchanging insights and building relationships in bite-sized, energetic bursts.
Remember, the goal is to create a community where attendees aren’t just passive observers but active contributors. You know you’ve hit the mark when everyone leaves, having forged at least one meaningful connection.
10. Send ‘Thank You Emails’
The event might be over, but the connection-building continues beyond there. A post-event “Thank You” email isn’t just good manners; it’s an extension of the event’s experience. It’s like giving your attendees a warm handshake (or, in these virtual times, a friendly wave) as they head out.
In your email, express genuine appreciation for their attendance and participation. A personal touch or mention of a memorable moment can make all the difference.
If you’ve got a meeting recording, definitely include that link. It allows attendees to revisit discussions, ensuring they get all vital points and insights.
Additionally, consider sharing the attendee list with proper permissions. This facilitates networking opportunities, allowing participants to connect on platforms like LinkedIn or exchange contact information for future collaborations.
Also, attaching additional resources, slides, or documents discussed during the event can be super valuable.
It’s all about adding value and reinforcing the connections made during the event.
11. Ask for feedback
After the event concludes, ask participants for their thoughts.
Whether about the platform used, the flow of activities, or the topics discussed, attendees’ perspectives can be a goldmine for refinement.
This feedback provides insights into the activities’ effectiveness and offers perspectives on your virtual networking event ideas.
A simple survey or open-ended questions can be the key to hosting even more successful networking events in the future.
12. Promote future events, if any
You’ve just wrapped up a great virtual networking event, but the momentum doesn’t have to stop there.
If there’s another event on the horizon, now’s a prime time to give it a little spotlight.
In your communication with attendees, whether it’s that post-event email or through other channels, drop a hint or an announcement about what’s coming next.
Give them a sneak peek, perhaps a topic, a keynote speaker, or even a catchy theme to pique their interest.
Key considerations for organizing the best virtual networking events
Organizing a top-notch virtual networking event goes beyond just setting a date and sending out invites. It’s about crafting an experience that leaves a lasting impression.
Let’s quickly unpack some essentials:
- Attendee Feedback: Touch base with virtual event attendees before and after the event. Their constructive feedback can help shape an event that genuinely resonates and addresses their needs or interests. It also offers invaluable insights for improving future events.
- Moderators are Gold: Especially if you’re new to hosting, having seasoned moderators can be a game-changer. They can guide the conversation, ensuring everyone feels engaged and included.
- Post-event Connections: Networking doesn’t end when the event does. Provide avenues for attendees to connect post-event through email, LinkedIn, or a dedicated platform.
- Punctuality: Just as starting on time is essential, wrapping up as scheduled is equally critical. Respect your attendees’ time and keep things concise.
- Sweeten the Deal with Freebies: Everyone loves a little extra. Partner with sponsors to offer giveaways or discounts. It’s a surefire way to create buzz and add value to your event.
When you prioritize your attendees’ experience, pay attention to the details, and sprinkle in some extras, you’re on your way to hosting a memorable virtual networking event.
Taking your online networking events to the next level- InEvent
If there’s one thing that stands out in organizing a successful virtual networking event, it’s choosing the right platform.
Think of it as the venue for an in-person event; it sets the ambiance, determines the tools at your disposal, and ultimately influences the event’s success.
Now, when it comes to top-tier virtual networking platforms, InEvent stands out.
Recognized for its robust features tailored for diverse virtual events, InEvent makes the entire process seamless. Whether aiming for breakout sessions, interactive polls, event marketing, or one-on-one networking opportunities, InEvent has got you covered.
But it’s not just about features; it’s about the experience.
With InEvent, attendees enjoy an intuitive interface, ensuring they can focus on networking rather than navigating.
And for organizers? A suite of tools that streamline planning, execution, and post-event analytics.
You need a platform that’s up to the task to elevate your virtual networking events. And with InEvent, you’re not just meeting expectations but exceeding them.
It’s one thing to throw an event, but it’s another to make it buzzworthy.
As you prep for your next networking shindig, ponder this: are you just filling up slots in people’s calendars, or are you crafting moments they’ll chat about for weeks?
With InEvent, you’ve got a secret weapon to turn standard meet-ups into the talk of the town.
Don’t just be part of the virtual networking wave; lead it, redefine it, and leave your attendees eagerly awaiting the ‘next one.’
Ready to level up?
On your marks, get set… Book a demo session with InEvent!
Julian Lankstead is the founder of JulianLankstead.com. He helps businesses increase revenue by providing strategies to improve business process efficiency.