Four people networking at a conference luncheon.
By far, the most valuable element of any event is the human aspect of it: the networking and relationship building that happens organically when opportunities for connecting with others are intentionally built into a program.
Lifelong connections are often established in this way, and we’ve come to look forward to this benefit of attending an event.
However, connections born from virtual events haven’t historically been as long-lasting—which points to an opportunity for event planners to discover new ways to encourage their digital audience to participate and connect.
This was one of the biggest reasons we built Galoo in the first place: to provide a virtual environment in which people can interact with each other, that is based in a real space and feels as personal and authentic as possible. So, we thought we would share the top six strategies we discovered to design a virtual event that supports the social, human element.
Shift the Agenda to Reflect the Tech
At an in-person event, people utilize every break in programming to network. And that’s valuable time your attendees are always grateful for.
With that in mind, going beyond the in-person agenda for your digital audience, and creating virtual spaces in which they can congregate, and engaging activities that are compelling and interesting and encourage meeting new people, will go a long way in breaking the monotony of being in one space for the entire program, and ultimately will increase the ROI for the digital attendee increasing the return rate.
Ideas for these types of activities are:
- Online Trivia
- Online Escape Rooms
- Online Scavenger Hunts
- Online Fitness and Wellness Breaks
There are many other options available, and finding the right ones for your group will just take a bit of research.
Stick with What They Know
A hand plugging a USB cable into a cloud to symbolize cloud-based services.
Choosing the right platform is an important decision. The last thing you want is to present your speakers and attendees with technology that is brand new to them, counter-intuitive, or difficult to use. It’s best to stick with the familiar, but that doesn’t mean not trying new things!.
Choose a platform that provides networking capabilities, built-in activities, and customizable embedding with video from YouTube or Vimeo, music from Soundcloud, and images from Canva. This will keep your digital guests engaged, as well as create a sense of home that inspires confidence in your attendees and speakers so they can focus on your programming and meeting others instead of figuring out how to use the platform itself.
Identify the Exact Goal for your Event
As you’re creating your event, setting your goals and being specific when developing and shaping the outcome you want to achieve for your attendees and speakers will help to define the agenda and activities you design. Questions to ask are:
- What is the purpose of the event?
- Is it educational, social, or both?
- Is it to make decisions or encourage change?
- Who is your audience?
- Are you charging for the event or is it invite only?
- Are your attendees interested in generating mentorship, collaboration, partnerships, or clients?
- How many days is the meeting?
- How do you want the attendees to feel once the meeting is over?
If you know exactly what you want to achieve with the relationship-building aspect of your program, you’ll have a greater understanding of how to create time and space within your virtual event for connections to happen.
Make Networking Time Sacred Time
During the time you’ve created for networking, work to maintain a “distance” from attendees. Avoid the temptation to insert programming into downtime as much as possible so they have time to engage with each other .
Galoo allows company logos, shops, and features that serve to combine marketing with enjoyable activities participants would normally take part in at an in-person event. So, schedule in true downtime, and allow the organic networking and genuine connections to commence.
We know that creating an environment that feels welcoming and warm at an in-person event inspires people to ask questions and really engage. The same is true for a virtual event if the platform allows for direct messaging and speaking up in groups in a way that feels organic and easy.
A woman holding a microphone asks a question of a young man at an event.
Choose a platform that allows direct messaging as well as group and private video chat that’s intuitive and accessible to all who are present. Ensure everyone feels comfortable asking questions of the speaker through a question queue that is clear and makes sense.
Lend a Networking Hand
Networking can be just as intimidating in a virtual world as it is in the real one, so offering up solid advice for how to network virtually (an area where we’re all still a little green) goes a long way toward calming nerves all over the room. Start with these few ideas and build out as much as you think your guests need:
- Publish your social media, pre- and post-event
- Create goals: “Introduce yourself to six people,” etc.
- Participate in games
- Have your elevator pitch ready to paste into chat
- Be prepared to share knowledge through links
- Join virtual hangouts
- Follow up with new connections
- Post reviews
The opportunity to create lasting connections with others who share something in common with us is what drives us to attend events and conferences.
At the end of the day, we’re social animals, and coming together to share knowledge, opportunities, and experiences is what we love.
Virtual events that acknowledge that truth through the design, scheduling, and technology inspire us to attend year after year (and bring our friends) with great excitement and enthusiasm.
At Galoo, we’re passionate about helping event planners create the kind of experiences that connect people in real spaces. Let us show you what Galoo can do through a live demo.