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7 Great Virtual Networking Event Ideas

Sabrina George

Networking is both an art and a science, and it’s a primary reason that attendees come to your event. The science of networking is a numbers game. The more people in your professional network, the better your chances of reaching your business goals. Networking events allow us to mix, mingle, and build more connections.

Networking went virtual during the pandemic, dragged along by social distancing requirements. When events went virtual, so did networking. That presented big challenges for event managers, who struggled to make their online events just as engaging and interactive as an o-site gathering was. Fortunately, we have some tips that can help. Here are some virtual networking event ideas to give your target audiences what they’re asking for.

Virtual Networking Ideas

The best virtual networking ideas allow event planners to re-create the natural in-person interactions that typically happen at an on-site event. Even if you have the best platform for virtual events, there are still limitations to how you can get people together in the cloud. Here are a dozen great virtual networking event ideas that will help you facilitate these exchanges, keep your attendees engaged, and give them their money’s worth.

  1. Speed Networking

    If you’ve heard of speed dating, you’ll get the hang of speed networking. Speed networking throws attendees together in meetups for five to 10-minutes. There are no awkward pauses during this short window, where you pair two virtual event attendees together to exchange elevator pitches, introduce themselves, and build their network. Your virtual event platform should allow these attendees to exchange contact info, provide LinkedIn addresses, and even offer links to their companies. It’s a great icebreaker in a virtual event that can engage attendees quickly and effectively online. It also works great during sessions when attendees would normally be trudging their way toward the next educational lecture. 
  1. Virtual Drinking?

    People have to eat and drink, of course, and sitting at a table together at a conference is a natural place to get to know other people. But how can you recreate these interactions at a virtual networking event? The answer is to schedule breakout rooms from the main conference over lunch. Attendees can eat their lunch at their desk at home and mingle just like they would at a real conference. Keep these breakout channels small—think about how many people typically sit around a lunch table at a conference. You can make entrance into these virtual lunches part of the schedule by organizing each virtual table around a conference topic. For example, if you went to breakout session A, you could visit table A at lunch. That way you automatically have a topic to talk about with other people that attended the same session. It’s a good idea to have a trained facilitator at each table to keep the conversation going. You could do something similar with a virtual coffee or cocktail time.
  1. Add Networking Gamification

    How many times have you been bored on a virtual call and played a game on your phone or started surfing Facebook on the side? We’ve all probably done it. For event planners, this is a virtual networking event idea that could help engage conference goes. For example, consider ways you could add gaming into the conference by using real-time polling or chat features. Every attendee should have their contact info visible on their screen persona. Asking leading questions to get networking conversations started can be as simple as, “How many people are here from Ohio?” Attendees can privately message or click LinkedIn profiles and automatically connect during this process. You can also create interesting challenges that connect people together and reward them for their networking efforts.
  1. Pre-Event Virtual Selfies

    There’s lots of networking that usually happens before a big on-site conference. Most event planners try to connect people early in these venues a few days before the show. In a virtual networking event, you could set up instant messaging channels where people could introduce themselves, share selfies, or even their elevator pitches. This gives people a sense of connection to people joining during the conference. It can set a friendly tone well before the first session. Your goal should be facilitating connections and inviting people to share social content so that the attendees feel like they know each other before the kickoff of the event.
  1. Give a Demo

    You can naturally engage your audience with a fun breakout demo. For example, say you’re having a virtual cocktail hour. Why not invite a mixologist to teach people how to make great cocktails from the comfort of their own homes? Key to facilitating virtual networking during this lively, fun interaction is to split the demo with breakouts where people chat together while trying out the recipe. Basically, you’re trying to create a cocktail lounge vibe in a virtual setting.
  1. Mentorship/One on Ones

    What about offering short tutorials or one on ones with subject matter experts? You could split participants into small groups or rotating person to person discussions to solve problems, network, or answer questions. Pairing off people with a specific subject matter expert is a kind of one-on-one consultation that could be very valuable to your attendees. It automatically builds networks as wells as providing valuable assistance on important topics that add value for your attendees.
  1. Virtual Scavenger Hunts

    If you haven’t been on a scavenger hunt, it is a great way to get people to interact. Split conference attendees into teams, give them a theme or a problem to solve and let them look around their at-home or office space for items that meet the goal. Reward bonus points for creative out-of-the-box thinking. Throwing people together in this way automatically forces new conference attendees to network, have fun, and laugh together. This kind of activity means more than just sharing email addresses—and that’s exactly why this is such a great idea.

If you’re seeking to employ these virtual networking event ideas, you need the best platform for virtual events on the market today. Find out why Onstream Media is that platform. Contact us to talk about your next virtual networking event.

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