4 Tips for Planning a Virtual Networking Event
The best way to get ahead in business is through networking. Growing your base of contacts and connections will help you boost brand awareness, broaden your horizons, and benefit from new business opportunities.
Business network events come in all shapes and sizes. They might take the form of conferences, drinks, seminars, or other get-togethers. They can be large or small, formal or informal, specific or general. But one thing they generally have in common is that people mingle together in one physical space. This means that the current global pandemic is proving difficult for networking.
If you are a business owner looking to host your own networking event, you’ll face several barriers around social distancing and finding available venues. The risk and compromises involved rarely seem to be worth it. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your plans on hold. It is perfectly possible to throw an event without the risk of spreading a deadly virus: by hosting it virtually.
A virtual networking event works much the same as a physical one: business people meet in a shared space and build relationships. The only difference is that it happens online. Online collaboration tools like Zoom make it easy for people from all over the world to get together and share ideas. In fact, for people on a busy schedule, it is a lot more convenient. It will be cheaper and easier for you to set up, and all of the guests will experience the same benefits.
If you are considering setting up your own virtual networking event, here are four tips to make it happen.
Invite the right people
When you host a physical networking event, you can invite as many people as will fit in the room. People can break off to have their own conversations and talk to whoever they choose. But with a virtual gathering, too many people will make conversation impossible. You should restrict the guest list to a reasonable number suitable for a civilised discussion. Make it a mix of people from different companies, job roles, and backgrounds to stimulate conversation.
Get the timing right
At a physical networking event, people can come and go as they please, but a virtual one will be more regimented. People need to arrive at the right time, and it will probably be shorter. You want enough time that people can have meaningful conversations, but not so long that people get bored or duck out early. One to two hours should be perfect. Make sure you schedule it at a time that is convenient for people, especially those who are in different time zones.
Sort out the logistics
A lot of people have spent this year getting to grips with video communication technology, and it can be tricky to get it right. Send your guest list an email with detailed instructions for how to get onto the event. Ask people to sign on fifteen minutes early just to ensure you don’t waste any time navigating technical issues.
Make it fun
A networking event online doesn’t have to be bland and boring. You could liven up the proceedings by implementing a fun dress code or asking people to bring their own drinks. A virtual photo booth or a quiz can be a great icebreaker and help people to get to know each other.