Over the past few years, the popularity of virtual networking events has been on the rise. COVID19 made this steady rise explode in a matter of months. Virtual networking events allow for greater connections that are not bound by geographic location and can be accessed from the comforts of your home or office.
However, due to the informal nature and convenience of virtual networking events, hosting one requires a bit more skill and preparation than an in-person event.
Twisted Networking is here to provide you with 6 tips for hosting successful virtual networking events.
Tip #1: Prepare
Although virtual events can feel more casual and relaxed, they are equally as important as in-person events. The planning process actually requires a little more attention and thought.
The first thing you need to determine is why you want to host a virtual networking event. If you are a seasoned event planner, virtual events might be a pivot or an extension to what you previously have been doing.
If you are new to event planning, spend some time thinking about what you wish to accomplish, who your audience will be and what a perfectly executed virtual event would look like.
We recommend that you attend a few different virtual networking events to check out what others are doing and how their events are run.
You will find things that you like and dislike which will help you determine the look and feel of your event. Or you might realize that you would rather not recreate the wheel but would prefer to use an establish system like the one that Twisted Networking offers. We will tell you more about that later.
If you decide to move forward and you are clear about your vision, we suggest that you pick a date and time that is most convenient for you. Create an online invitation that allows you to easily share a link and post on your social media platforms.
We find EventBrite to be compatible for our events but there are many other options. A Google search can help you pick one that meets your needs.
Be sure to include a thorough description of your event so that your guests know exactly what to expect.
Tip #2: Have an Agenda
In order to have an organized, productive and enjoyable event, you must prepare an agenda. Your agenda will need to take into consideration your goals, how many guests you will have and how long your event will run.
Your agenda should include what you plan on doing and also what you plan on saying. You should also know when you will do and say these things. Keeping track of your time will be vital in the virtual arena.
We schedule our events to run for 1 hour. Our agenda includes 3 relationship building and educational activities. We make use of a script and a timer.
This allows for consistency across events and also ensures that we stay on schedule. Our virtual events cap at 10 guests. Our goal is to provide a comfortable environment where all of our attendees feel seen and heard and can truly share and connect.
Tip #3: Pick a Platform
Most platforms offer a free version that you can test. Picking your platform will depend on your needs, preferences, and technical skills. A Google search can help you pick one that meets your needs.
Here at Twisted Networking, we use Zoom primarily because of the breakout room feature. This allows for our guest to break off into pairs and participate in our relationship building activity named “Tell Us”. We also like the ability to screen share during our “Educate Us” activity.
Your platform will need to be able to accommodate your agenda while also being relatively easy to use. Make sure you test out your platform several times before your event.
Tip #4: Pick a Host
Planning an event and hosting an event are two totally different roles. At times the planner is the host but on other occasions, the planner chooses someone else to be the host.
Having a great host will determine whether your event meets your goals, is spoken of well and if your guests will return. The host sets the feel of the event. In a virtual networking event, the host will have to have to make use of their voice, gestures and facial expressions to express warmth and appreciation for you guest.
A few characteristics to look for in a host are being personable, poised, well-spoken, and flexible.
Your host also must be comfortable with the platform and be prepared to handle technical issues. With a virtual networking event, there is always a chance that something technical could go wrong. The host might need to assist an attendee in turning on their camera, muting/unmuting or connecting their audio.
If you don’t plan on hosting the event, you would do well to schedule a training and a test run with your host.
In order to be a Twisted Networking Virtual Event Facilitator, you first must attend one of our virtual events to see and feel what we are about. Next, you would attend a group training where you will have an opportunity to test out the Zoom controls.
Finally, you will have a one-on-one training prior to the launch of your event. We typically have a Twisted Networking representative at each event to provide support for our Facilitators.
Tip #5: Market your Event
After you have planned, prepared your agenda, picked your platform, decided who would be hosting now it’s time to market your event. This is a major step. Marketing will determine whether your event is well attended or not.
Social media is an easy way to get exposure for your event but personal outreach is the best way to ensure that people will register and actually show up.
Along with posting on social media, you will need to talk to people about your event, send emails to your contacts/database and use inbox messages to communicate with your audience. The personal outreach is what will guarantee attendance.
Our rule of thumb is 1 out of every 10 personal conversations will produce an attendee. If you have a blog or are interested in starting a blog this can also be a great avenue to publicize your event.
This takes time so make sure that in your planning stage that you give yourself ample time to promote and invite. Also keep in mind that due to this being a virtual event, most people will register close to the event date.
Tip #6: Follow-Up
Congratulations, your event was a success. You still have one more step: follow up. This step can easily be neglected. However, it is crucial to the networking process. Your event is the icebreaker; the follow-up is the next step in the relationship.
We recommend that you send an email thanking each participant for attending. We choose to provide a contact list in our follow-up email but that should be decided on during your planning phase.
We also include a short survey which gives us valuable feedback about our attendees’ experience at the event. Constant Contact is our CRM and the tool that we use to follow-up with our guests.
Your follow-up might also include scheduling 1-on-1 meetings with those attendees who you feel would be beneficial connections for you. You can also include the date and link for your future events.
Our Founder, Jevonya Allen always says “Networking is the #1 key to success in this game called life.” Virtual networking events are the way of the future. They have made it possible to connect with and learn from people all over the world.
But if we are going to host events, we take on the responsibility of making sure that our objectives are met and that we bring value to our attendees. We hope these 6 tips will help you host successful virtual networking events.
- Prepare: What are my goals? Who is my audience? When will I host my event?
- Have an Agenda: What are we going to do and when are we going to do it?
- Pick your Platform: Which online platform am I comfortable with?
- Pick your Host: Will I host this event or will someone else?
- Market your Event: Who am I going to personally invite? Where am I going to post and share my event?
- Follow-Up: What system am I going to use to follow-up and keep track of my attendees? What will I include in my correspondence?
If you would like to learn about Twisted Networking’s proven system for hosting virtual networking events, contact us here.