One of the biggest challenges for virtual and hybrid events is and has always been is networking. No matter what the event, networking must be easily accessible to the attendees. Event platform companies have come up with innovative ways to enable networking and building relationships at virtual and hybrid events. At hybrid events, there are still a lot of tried-and-true tricks for encouraging physical attendees to hang out and chat with each other more.
Here are 13 tips we have compiled for you that we think are solid ways to increase networking at your events on-site and online:
1. Leverage the Activity Feed - Your attendee’s activity feeds on the various social networks are a great place to establish a foundation for networking opportunities. You can keep the activity feeds buzzing by posting a variety of content about the event. These activities encourage your attendees to engage and network with fellow attendees. Remember that using event-specific hashtags and posts not only makes the audience interact and comment but also helps them feel more like part of the community.
2. Solicit discussion topics in your pre-event materials - Have a section on your registration page or use other pre-event materials like promotional content and social media posts, where you ask the attendees what topics they would like to discuss during the event with other attendees. Gather all these topics and post the best ones on your event portal so that they know what some of the hot discussion topics are likely to be.
3. Have a virtual/hybrid event moderator - Having an event moderator helps ensure the smooth flow of the event, plus they can encourage attendees onsite and online to interact during breaks. They can also help put attendees at more ease with whatever networking tools you have decided on for your event.
4. Keep an open discussion thread or two (or more) going in your event platform - Also known as asynchronous chat, these spaces typically allow for comments to be added at any time. If you subscribe to these, they’ll send you an email every time someone responds. Make sure to cover this for your onsite and online attendees every day during the housekeeping announcements. Also, consider keeping this asynchronous chat capability going past the event, so people have an easy place to come back to for making comments about the previous or next event.
5. Provide online networking rooms with tables - While larger online rooms such as those available on Zoom and other platforms do work for networking but networking-specific apps that provide rooms with smaller tables are even better. The ability to choose a room for its topic range is good, and tables (which can also be topic-specific) of 8-10 people - where visitors can see who’s there first before joining - helps ease people into networking - and on topics, they’re prepared to talk about.
6. Make time in the Schedule for Networking - Sure the content is the most important element, but our experience is that attendees - whether they are onsite or online - do not show up early or stay late for networking (nor sponsor booth visitation on-site). Indeed, there are meals and receptions, which we’ll get to in a moment, but otherwise, unless you make time in the interior of your schedule, it can be hard to get attendees to network. 30 minutes here and there, can make all the difference in the world.
7. Set up an Old-Fashioned Internet Cafe - Onsite people can network with online people. Just like the cafes that show used to set up for people to check their email - this is the same basic concept. It’s some number of laptops with wired headsets (preferably with a hard-wired internet connection), tethered to a table, for those onsite to have video chats with members of your online audience. They can invite attendees from a list of those currently online.
8. Encourage Chat During Sessions - Everybody watches sessions, so having chat easily accessible for your attendees during sessions is critical. Whether or not you make your chat space the main source of questions for the speaker (we recommend having a separate “Ask a Question” button so you don’t have to sift through the chat to find questions) it is a great place for people to interact. Most chat apps include the option for users to ask other users if they want to have a one-on-one chat, although we recommend text-only here so that they’re not competing with the session video. Also, make sure that both the online and the offline attendees have access to the same chatroom. Encourage your audience to ask questions and share their views. This sparks the best real-time conversations.
9. Let both (Online and On-site) audiences participate in Quizzes, Live Polls, and Surveys - How do polls, quizzes, and surveys help promote networking? If both your onsite and online audiences are participating in the same interactive moments, that reinforces the perception that your event wants to promote the connection between the two groups of attendees. It also allows attendees to get a better sense of what their colleagues are thinking.
10. Make it easier for Onsite attendees to hang out together - Certainly, this does not apply to all shows, but for those who can,
11. Let all your attendees have the ability to schedule meetings with other attendees - Onsite or online - before, during, and after the event - online meeting schedulers give attendees the option to set times to get together with colleagues at times that are most convenient for them
12. Take advantage of Social Media - As you promote your event on social media, along with event-specific hashtags, not only are you boosting your event marketing, but attendees and others searching these event hashtags will get to know who all are attending or have attended the event. This provides yet another impetus for folks to connect.
13. Plan Post-Event Online Meetups - These can be paired with some content recorded during the event that was held back from on-demand - always nice to have a hook. But as part of a content mix or standalone, giving your attendees a place and a reason to connect after your show, is not only good for them but also good for your brand.
Here’s how you bring in meaningful networking at your virtual/hybrid events.
Networking during Event:
Post-Event Networking Activities
Keep your virtual/hybrid networking game strong!
At Performedia, we have the technology and seasoned teams and crews to take care of all the event’s onsite and online experience. We offer innovative opportunities like virtual booths, the live-question record feature, interactive surveys, polls, and much more.
Schedule a call with us to know how we create exhilarating virtual/hybrid event experiences for your attendees.