Networking events allow businesses to come together and build mutually beneficial connections. It is also a chance for professionals to approach others within their industry, gain information, and explore growth opportunities.
While the corporate world has traditionally held in-person events, virtual networking events are gaining popularity at an impressive rate. According to Markletic, about 67% of businesses now prefer digital networking, while most companies invest between 10% to 20% of their budget on virtual networking.
But what are the five steps you must take to host a successful networking event? Read on to find out.
How does virtual networking work?
Digital networking events require a platform or software that enables you to host the event online. They are of various types and vary in their features, speed, user interface, costs, security features, etc. Online programs can accommodate more event attendees than their physical counterparts, as they enable attendees to connect even from the remotest locations.
However, some hosts prefer limiting the size of attendees to facilitate the processes better. Programs of this type usually require a moderator because they initiate a conversation, and give everybody a chance to speak. Building networks at a virtual event involves various features like AI-powered matchmaking, live chat functionality, networking tables, chat integrations, and business cards exchanges.
Five steps for successful digital network hostingThese are the five steps you ought to consider incorporating the next time you host a virtual networking event.
- Make adequate preparations in advance
- Create a welcoming environment
- Ensure the session is interactive
- Be an effective facilitator
- Bring the session to an end smoothly
It is imperative to make sufficient preparations a few days before the virtual networking session to ensure it is interactive, productive, smooth, and a fun-experience for everybody involved. Most networking events are usually between 90 to 120 minutes long.
You must also send your attendees a calendar invite, share the password (if any), download instructions for the software if required, and send out a reminder mail a few days before the program. Following these steps will send a positive message to attendees and ensure they take the program seriously.
You ought to make attendees feel comfortable by creating a welcoming environment which you can do by using a virtual event platform to create a branded welcome lobby.
When the event starts, it is a good practice to begin with introductions, giving everyone a chance to introduce themselves before proceeding. You could limit the introductions to two minutes each. Instead of waiting for someone to speak next, you could select a particular guest and ask them to proceed.
Since you will be holding all the activities in a virtual room, you must ensure it is interactive, drawing the attention of every participant. Having a speaker that dominates will tend to be monotonous, and it will also give the other attendees a feeling of being excluded. One of the ways of avoiding that is ensuring the event is interactive. You could consider asking various questions about their jobs, recent achievements, future industry trends, etc.
You must also be a successful facilitator since you are hosting the session. Every attendee should have the feeling of having benefited from it. The sessions should have a live video and chat option for everybody, with a smooth working mechanism.
Attendees would appreciate it if you informed them about the time left for the meeting to end, as it will help them make any vital points they might have missed out on earlier while thanking you for being a friendly host. You should avoid bringing the meeting to an abrupt end, especially when someone is about to make a point.
How to choose a platform for online networking?
Since you will host your virtual networking program on a platform, conducting the proper research before selecting one is advisable. It should have a high-quality video option and enable you to set up one-to-one meetings effortlessly. You should have the option of employing ticket-tier based matchmaking for networking, defining time windows and having a video first networking option.
It would also help tremendously if the software had AI-powered matchmaking that matched professionals with individuals who shared common interests. Al powered matchmaking makes networking easier, effective and fun for all the participants as it pairs professionals with those with similar interests and goals, instead of a haphazard approach involving wastage of time. You can also customize networking as per your needs - employing tier-based matchmaking, defining time windows, and prioritizing video networking.
Furthermore, you will find it extremely helpful if your platform allows attendees to design their digital business cards and share and receive them whenever required. Digital business cards will eliminate the hassle of storing contact information manually.
These are the top five steps you must follow in all virtual networking events to ensure they are a success and provide the results you want. Every attendee should leave with satisfaction, having gained something from the event. The right networking platform ensures your event is productive, valuable, and efficient for all.