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Virtual Networking Events 101

Chati Team
June 7, 2022

Networking events provide an opportunity for professionals to expand their network, forge connections, and secure future job opportunities. A virtual networking event can be a great way to reach a wider audience without being limited to a geographic location. As an event planner, an organized approach to planning your networking event will help maximize attendance and participation. 

Convincing people to attend your event: 

The first step of hosting a virtual networking event is convincing people to attend. Having a curated guest list will set your event up for success and provide more effective networking for those in attendance.

Professionals are more likely to attend a networking event when they are invited by a trusted source. Consider your professional connections. Do you personally know the manager of a company in the industry for which you are hosting the event? If so, reach out to them directly and ask them to spread the word to their employees. Do you have thousands of LinkedIn connections? If so, reach out to them individually and post the event on your feed. 

If you’re using an invitation or flier to advertise the event, consider hiring a graphic designer to create an eye catching one. Curating a professional image surrounding the event will draw in attendees. Keep the invitation succinct while including information about the event’s time and date, target audience, and what attendees can expect from the event. 

While planning and advertising the event, keep attendees in mind. What are they gaining from your event that they can’t gain elsewhere? Counterintuitively, keeping your event niche might be your key to attracting a larger, more engaged crowd. A ‘networking event for STEM professionals’ might be too broad to attract attendees, while a ‘networking event for security software engineers’ is going to grab the attention of those in that group. In the first example, a breakout room of ten STEM professionals might have little in common, while a breakout room of security software engineers is guaranteed to have lots to discuss.

Planning the event:

Sticking a group of attendees in a virtual Zoom meeting and letting them network freely is a recipe for a chaotic networking event that will leave attendees dissatisfied. Organization is crucial in guaranteeing that your virtual networking event goes smoothly and that attendees are able to forge meaningful professional connections. 

Most networking events will start off with an introduction, so plan some creative icebreakers that relate to the content of the event. If the networking event is specific to a particular industry, consider having a quick trivia round related to the industry’s current events. 

Ask yourself what the main attraction of your networking event is and plan the event around it. If there is a keynote speaker, plan to start the event there and facilitate breakout discussions afterwards.

Consider the size of your event. If there are dozens of attendees, breakout rooms are a necessity. Breakout rooms are used to divide participants into smaller groups, which can be a great way to facilitate focused conversation. Since participants are often more comfortable speaking and engaging with a few colleagues than a large group, this is a great way to promote focused conversation. 

Instead of leaving participants to fend for themselves in breakout rooms, provide them with discussion prompts specific to the event. The event host can bounce between breakout rooms and provide additional prompts if the conversation isn’t flowing.  

While planning the event, it’s also important to consider potential technical difficulties. As the event host, ensure that you have stable internet connection. Do a dry-run of the event beforehand to make sure you can easily transition the group to breakout rooms, mute participants if necessary, and that all event links are functional. 

After the event:

After the event, facilitate follow-ups between event attendees. Having a centralized LinkedIn event page can help guests in contacting each other after the event. Let guests know where they can share their LinkedIn profiles or other contact information. 

If you are planning on hosting similar events in the future, let attendees know where they can receive notifications about future events. Consider setting up an email listserv for attendees that are interested in future events. Solicit feedback from attendees to determine what went well and what didn’t. After the event is a great time to solidify your network and start planning for future events. 

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