Virtual networking is a rapidly growing trend in the professional development landscape. Networking, or building connections with other professionals in, or connected to your space, has always been a critical part of setting yourself up for success in any industry.
However, even before the pandemic hit and typical networking events became less common, attending these sessions in-person was often a time-consuming and expensive process. Virtual networking events offer an excellent alternative if you know how to use them properly.
What is a networking event? Virtual Networking
A typical networking event is a conference, or group session where people can come together to share ideas, discuss trends, and explore various topics related to their industry. A networking event allows you to build powerful relationships and connections with people who can help you to grow your business, reach new customers, or simply expand your team.
Traditionally, networking events would often take place in-person, in a shared conference room or space. However, the rise of online events ideas has allowed for an increase in alternative networking opportunities. Virtual networks have grown increasingly common in a post-pandemic landscape, where people are used to interacting in the digital world.
With virtual networking events, you can meet new people, just as you would in a traditional environment, using tools like video conferencing and group forums. Innovative virtual events have even begun to introduce new technologies, like extended reality and “metaverse” communities.
Creative virtual events: Virtual Conference Ideas
Virtual networking ideas are growing increasingly creative as more companies take their conferencing sessions online. Zoom networking is now more common than ever, where people set up one-to-one meetings or group conferences over video.
Other virtual conference ideas might include:
Speed networking events: Online digital events where you can join a virtual or video chat room and quickly introduce yourself to a range of people in a short space of time.
Hybrid events: Hosted webinar-style events where people can choose to either visit the session in-person, or collaborate through a video connection.
Virtual games and competitions: Many virtual networking events now include online games and competitions as ice-breaking opportunities. There are even games that are designed to work with the conferencing tools most businesses already use.
Virtual mixers: Virtual mixers are similar to traditional “mixer” events, where people get together with coffee or drinks to discuss topics in an informal environment. This strategy can even involve sending drinks and snacks to each person attending the event, so they can enjoy them in the comfort of their own home.
Roundtables: Roundtable events involve hosting multiple experts within an industry as they share a discussion about a specific topic. Usually, other people can join in to listen to the event but don’t contribute themselves.
XR events: Extended reality events use mixed, augmented, and virtual reality to immerse people in the event experience. Innovative virtual events will even allow you to explore a virtual space using a VR headset.
Mastering Zoom Networking: Tips for Networking
Attending a virtual event can feel like a very different experience to visiting a traditional networking experience. With that in mind, it’s important to be as prepared as possible.
If you’re wondering how to network at a virtual conference, or you’ve never taken part in a virtual event before, start with these tips:
Prepare in advance: Long before the event is scheduled to start, make sure you’re ready to make the right impression. Check your webcam, turn your phone notifications off, and make sure you look professional for anyone who might see you. Check your microphone is working properly, and test your internet connection.
Have an introduction: You’re likely to be interacting with small groups of people throughout the event via breakout rooms, so it’s worth having an introduction prepared. Think about the most important information you can provide within just a few seconds, and remember people can always reach out to find out more about you later.
Participate: The best way to make the most of a virtual event experience is to get involved. Don’t linger in the background and listen if you have an opportunity to chat. Getting involved and making comments, speaking to other people, and sharing your opinions will give you an opportunity to start making connections.
Make notes: Remember to keep notes of all the contact information and details you’re going to need to follow up with the people you encounter during your networking events. You can always enter these details into your computer if you need to.
Listen actively: Remember to actively listen when other people are talking to you. Don’t look away and make notes until you know they’re done talking to you and you have a moment to pause your webcam.
Virtual events can be just as powerful as in-person interactions for networking, but they can take some practice to masterfully.