With conferences and other events having moved almost exclusively online for the time being, organizers and sponsors are finding it challenging to keep their audiences engaged. One thing missing from many virtual and hybrid events is a strong networking experience, ranging from casual social interactions to one-to-one consultations with subject matter experts.
While most of us have grown used to socially distant virtual events over the past year, people are becoming increasingly wary of how much time they spend in front of the screen. Leaving an event is always just a click away, which is why you need to follow the best practices when learning how to host a virtual networking event.
With that in mind, here are eight proven virtual networking event ideas to bring high engagement levels to virtual and hybrid events:
1. Intelligent Matchmaking
Intelligent networking takes a seamless, automated approach to networking by recommending connections based on mutual interests. This will help create a structured environment to help businesses promote stronger networking throughout their events, as well as before and after.
When an attendee registers for the first time, they should be able to opt-in, so they can receive recommendations for new connections and personalized content. That way, attendees can view profiles and initiate chats with people they want to connect to, either by instant message, video, or audio. Moreover, profiles with concise bullet lists of interests can serve as effective conversation starters, which is especially valuable for driving successful breakout sessions and overcoming the inherent social barriers of virtual environments.
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2. Social Media Marketing
Social media is a valuable marketing and networking tool for almost any business. Even when in-person events make a comeback, social media provides an excellent way to keep in touch with your attendees before and long after the online networking events.
Most events have their hashtags, which they advertise with registration welcome packs and on website landing pages and social networks themselves. Include your event hashtag whenever talking about your event online, whether it’s sharing your thoughts on presentations or screengrabs of the latest live events. Encourage your attendees to do the same when they share feedback, and consider scheduling public Twitter chats around specific topics, each with relevant hashtags of their own.
3. Virtual Hangout Area
One of the greatest advantages of in-person events is that they offer ample opportunities for people to socialize between presentations. Some also have lively afterparties where attendees can get to know one another in both a personal and professional capacity.
Translating these interactions into a virtual environment might seem difficult, but there are still many opportunities. Proven virtual networking event tips include creating online lounges for specific topic areas that give your attendees and presenters spaces where they can come together to meet like-minded individuals and share their ideas and feedback more naturally.
4. Virtual Event Games
Gamification is the process of using mechanics usually associated with video games in non-video game scenarios. Examples include points, ranks, and badges, but you can also go all out with full-blown competitive games that take interactivity to the next level.
Gamification is one of the best virtual networking event ideas because games are addictive and engaging by nature. Virtual events offer many opportunities to launch fun and competitive activities that keep attendees coming back for more. They can also encourage them to provide feedback by way of surveys and polls.
5. Virtual Event Booths
Although virtual platforms cannot replicate face-to-face gatherings, they can allow one-to-one networking. Virtual event booths are analogous to the stands you see at in-person events like trade shows and festivals, and they make it easier for sponsors, organizers, and attendees to connect.
A virtual event booth with integrated live video conferencing and reporting lets you convert event leads into qualified opportunities. If you know of a promising prospect at your event, it should be easy to instantly invite them to a video chat.
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6. Real-Time Messaging
Far too many virtual events focus almost exclusively on one-to-many presentations, in which there is minimal opportunity for two-way conversation and one-to-one networking. It’s critical that people have opportunities to connect with speakers and other attendees whenever they want, preferably from the convenience of their mobile devices.
Instant messaging is especially powerful here, but your online networking events should also facilitate video and audio chat. Moreover, with a dedicated mobile event app, you can also send out push notifications to keep attendees informed, regardless of their physical locations.
7. Mobile Event Apps
Almost everyone owns a smartphone, so it stands to reason that mobile should be an integral component of any event, virtual or otherwise. Mobile event marketing and networking lets you keep your audiences engaged no matter where they are, including long after the event is over.
Choose a virtual event platform that lets organizers create virtual networking opportunities like specific interest groups, instant messaging, and online matchmaking functions. For example, attendees can list their interests when they register for an event, and instantly find others who share their interests before, during, and after the event.
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8. Group Chat Channels
Creating dedicated groups and chat channels for specific topics shouldn’t be restricted to the mobile app alone. For example, by integrating LinkedIn, Facebook, and Slack into your virtual event networking program, you can set up as many interest groups as you want to let people seamlessly make the connections that matter to them.
Be sure to choose the social networks and messaging platforms that your attendees are most likely to be using. LinkedIn is by far the most popular platform for professional networking, but Slack tends to be the better choice for conversations and instant messaging. For more socially orientated events, creating groups on Facebook and WhatsApp might be a better choice.
Choosing the Right Virtual Event Platform
Modern virtual event platforms offer a proven way to deliver immersive experiences and drive value for everyone involved – organizers, sponsors, and attendees alike. The best virtual event platforms leverage event marketing and registration data to facilitate meaningful connections and encourage networking through everything from virtual cocktail parties to group chats and social meetups.
Aventri brings your virtual and hybrid events to the next level by providing powerful tools and analytics that drive meaningful engagement across online environments. Request your demo today to see how it works.