How to Host a Successful Virtual Business Networking Event
Since the global pandemic erupted in early 2020, we have seen a radical increase in virtual events, changing the way the business community hosts galas, ceremonies and other affairs. A year and a half later, virtual events have become an industry norm, proving that they are here to stay. Virtual business networking events can help you grow your brand, build quality email lists, and position you, your team, and your brand as an industry authority.
Despite their popularity, the format of online networking events is still a relatively new concept to many – planning one can be overwhelming and wrought with confusion over where to begin. These simple hosting virtual events tips can help take the stress and guesswork out of the planning and bring you virtual event success.
Start with strategy. Setting goals and metrics should be your first step as you consider how to host an online networking event. It will also be important to understand your audience – who will be attending, what challenges are they facing, and what are their goals? What is your call to action? Each subsequent choice should relate back to these strategic decisions.
Promote your event. Be sure to advertise your virtual business networking event in advance so your target audiences know when it’s happening and how they can participate. This includes creating an event landing page with event details and a registration link. Share the link through blog and social media posts and email marketing.
Choose a captivating topic and format. Ultimately, it is the content of your online business networking event that is going to draw participation, so choose one that will add value. Then decide how that topic is best showcased. This could include a single presenter, multiple presenters, a panel discussion, a question-and-answer session, or a demonstration of a product or service. It could even be a combination of one or more elements. It is beneficial to have a moderator to manage transitions and keep conversation flowing.
Timing is everything. Make sure your virtual business networking event is long enough to deliver what your audience wants, but not so long they will lose interest. Keep the daily routines of your target audiences in mind when deciding on a date and time. And be mindful of time zones and holidays, especially if your audience includes those in other countries.
Prepare your agenda and speakers. It’s OK to build in short breaks, but be careful to craft your agenda so you don’t have large gaps of lag time. Share a timed agenda with relevant links so your audience knows what to expect. Brief your speakers on the flow of the event, and answer any questions they may have.
Carefully select your platform. There is a wealth of options available to choose from, so be sure to select one that fits your format and desired user experience. Test it out to be certain it works the way you want it to. It is likely that at least some of your attendees will use a mobile device, so make sure the platform is responsive.
Consider hiring professionals. Many platforms are free, but it is worth paying for one that will help your virtual business networking event look professional and polished. It also helps to hire virtual event planning experts to partner with you to build and execute an event that resonates with your audience, generates leads, and keeps costs down. Having professionals on hand can also help you prepare for and overcome any technical challenges.
Build in engagement opportunities. As you consider how to host an online event, it is critical to incorporate audience involvement. It is possible to make meaningful professional connections in a virtual setting. Your attendees will expect it from a business networking event. Create space for questions and engagement. You may want to utilize platform features that allow for break-out rooms or an app that lets attendees interact. Leverage social media to encourage conversation.
Don’t forget the follow-up. Be sure to follow up after the event to thank everyone for coming, gather feedback, share relevant resources, and give attendees an opportunity to stay connected. You can also crowdsource the topic for your next event.
Debrief and track your results. Compare your virtual event success with your original metrics. Meet with your team to discuss lessons learned and add attendee information to your email list and lead funnel.
Virtual business networking events offer a convenient way to feature compelling content and connect with people from all over the world. Don’t let the logistics intimidate you. Paradigm can help you with everything from planning and marketing to execution and follow-up. Please contact us today.