26 Aug Create Virtual Networking Opportunities During your Next Online Event
An industry colleague recently said: “The first one to truly crack the code of virtual networking, wins the grand prize. It’s the holy grail of online events.” Virtual networking can be broken into three categories: serendipitous/accidental, topical/organized, and fun-based. Online is simply different, and you can’t use the in-person model.
Types of Virtual Networking:
- Serendipitous – Since virtual events require detailed planning and execution, you can’t leave serendipity to itself. However, you can plan to allow people to create their own networking conversations. Have trained facilitators as “table” leaders ready to facilitate conversation if it isn’t flowing naturally. Have more than enough video-based chat rooms available so eventgoers can table hop.
- Topical – Choose micro-topic discussions that are hot industry topics. Have trained facilitators ready with leading questions for the group to answer.
- Fun-based – Prep your viewing audience to engage in the text chat while attending a party. Watch a band, laugh along with a famous comedian, or listen to a poetry reading. Your facilitator should sprinkle commentary in the chat: song requests, light banter with the comedian, or testimony to the poet.
There are two key factors in networking: good, professional facilitators, and the ability to create your own networking room throughout an event. The latter, creating your own room, contributes heavily to serendipity. Imagine watching a band while joining a micro-topic discussion, then seeing a post in the chat or a mention on the screen that interests you. If you can create your own room in the moment, you will be able to invite the participant who has sparked your interest to chat. From there, you can explore their commentary further.
All the above then also applies to exhibitors. “Just like at in-person events, exhibitors can’t just show up. Exhibitors need to market heavily in advance, offer a reason to stop by their booth and actively engage,” said Kara Dao, JDC Events Director of Client Engagement and Operations. They also need to plan for serendipity, and organizers must include them. Don’t just give them an online exhibit. Thread them into programming, include exhibitors as thought leaders, and encourage the engagement everyone is craving.
Virtual events are moving at lightning speed, and the design of the event has never been more critical.
Kara Dao is the Senior Director, Client Engagement and Operations at JDC Events. She has a degree from George Mason University and over 2 decades of leadership and executive experience in the events industry. Kara is certified by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, has her Certification in Exhibition Management (CEM) and has served as a Mentor for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).