Networking is a huge value driver for events. For all types of virtual events – conferences, business meetings, trade fairs – networking ranks high as a motivator for attendees to join. It is, in fact, the second biggest reason why people join virtual events, after educational purposes. As an organizer, making networking an integral part of your event can do wonders for you.
So how can you give your attendees the finest networking opportunities during the event? Let’s look at some ideas.
And you don’t have to wait for your event to start to give networking opportunities to your audiences. See how best you can use pre-event networking to build great engagement.
1. Get a moderator on board
Sometimes when attendees join a networking room at a virtual event, they get greeted by silence. People may stare at each other, unsure where to start and waiting for others to take the lead. That’s where moderators become important. They spark discussions, end awkward silences, and ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. If there is a lull, they fill it. If there is a long-winded participant, they jump in.
For one of Hubilo’s events, we worked with the Drag Taste team to moderate some of our sessions. The energy in those sessions was infectious and social media was abuzz with positive mentions of the attendees’ experience.
2. Set up virtual speed networking
Your virtual event platform’s breakout room functionality is ideal for hosting this. Attendees can enter a breakout room for a short time to discuss a specific topic. The room’s host decides the topic and the size of the room. They can then invite people to join the room for a specified amount of time. A few powerful virtual event platforms can accommodate up to 500 participants in a room.
3. Open virtual lounges for discussions
Breakout rooms help with quick, theme-focused networking. Whereas virtual lounges are great for free flowing conversations. Attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors – everyone can use lounges to talk about business, common interests, or products. These discussions are often scheduled for networking post the event, but can also be held spontaneously. Lounges in Hubilo can accommodate upto 16 people.
4. Encourage attendees to ask questions during sessions
Attendees don’t usually get a chance to interact with speakers between sessions. But they can use the Q&A feature in a virtual event platform to freely pose questions to speakers. Good questions often become a point of discussion and speakers may invite attendees to breakout rooms to talk about them.
5. Host quick event games
Fun competitions and games are the best way to create a sense of camaraderie among attendees. They also shoot-up the engagement rate of your event substantially. Here are three interesting game ideas to get your attendees to engage and connect.
->Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Split your attendees into small teams and give them a list of items they need to find from around their homes. The team that is the first to get all the items wins.
It is a classic icebreaker. The bingo cards could include things such as:
- Loves cricket
- Heads a start-up
- Is a die-hard Chelsea fan
The first person who fills out five spaces in a row calls bingo and wins.
->Two Truths and a Lie
Each participant shares three facts about themselves, only two of which would be true. Other attendees must guess which statement is a lie.
6. Send push notifications to inform attendees about networking events
Just like event planners, attendees have a lot on their plates during events too. Send well-timed push notifications to ensure attendees know about various planned networking activities at the event. Send reminders about any impromptu sessions, breakout rooms or lounges about to open, and networking sessions.
7. Gamify networking activities
Award points to your attendees based on their different networking activities. They get points for performing actions such as viewing a fellow attendee’s profile, chatting with an exhibitor, attending a breakout session, participating in a networking game, or sending a message to a fellow attendee, and so on. Display these points on a leaderboard. Celebrate the winners. It will encourage attendees to be more active during the event.
8. Share connection recommendations with your attendees
You can share AI-generated connection recommendations with attendees to make networking easier for them. Referred to as the Matchmaking feature on Hubilo’s platform, it offers you suggestions for who to connect with based on common interests.
Because people can’t simply run into each other online the way they can at an in-person event, prompting them with connection suggestions takes care of a lot of their legwork. Once attendees find other people they would like to connect with, they can use 1-1 text chats and video calls to connect with them instantly or schedule meetings for later.
As virtual events evolve with time, event planners are testing and improving upon new ways of networking. Use these ideas as a starting point, but don’t forget to get your creative juices flowing and keep experimenting.