Over the past several months most of us have attended more virtual events than we could have possibly expected. One of these types of events has been the virtual networking event. When done correctly, there are few events as satisfying. They’ll propel you and other attendees to into new careers or new business partnerships. Maybe you’re event considering hosting an online networking event.
That’s exactly why we created this helpful list of 20 tips for hosting virtual networking events. So if you’re asking yourself, “What are the best practices for hosts of online networking events?” Look no further.
Tips For Hosts When Laying the Groundwork For Your Next Virtual Networking Event
In order to successfully host a virtual networking event, you’ll need to prepare before the actual event. We’ll give you the resources to establish a solid foundation and show you how you can build your event from there.
Tip #1) Invite the Right People
Invite a mix of people. As the host of a networking event, you don’t want to have one or two fresh faces mixing in with a well-established group. It’s uncomfortable showing up for a new event when you feel like you’ve stepped into a reunion. Have a healthy blend of new people and at most three people who already know each other.
Tip #2) Invite the Right Number of People To Your Event
If you invite too few people it won’t necessarily be a true networking event, and if you invite too many there won’t be enough time for everyone to interact. If the sole purpose of your event is to network, inviting around eight people (including you as the host) is a perfect number to allow you to introduce everyone and moderate the conversation.
Tip #3) Set the Duration
When hosting an online networking event, it’s best to set the expectation early on that the event will last about an hour. If your guests are having a good time and really enjoying themselves, great, but people tend to fade after 90 minutes. Give the expectation that people will be there for an hour but give yourself a little padding when scheduling your event on whichever online event platform you’re using. You don’t want to be cut off mid conversation without wrapping up the event.
Tip #4) Pick the Right Time
Another pro tip: a popular time to host virtual networking events is 6-7:30 p.m. EST, because it allows a greater opportunity for guests to attend. You can invite people from all over the world. Within one event you can combine a cocktail hour for those who’ve already finished their work day and a coffee hour for those just starting their day. If this time isn’t ideal, choose a time based around what works best for all of your attendees.
Tip #5) Make It Easy
Send a calendar invite with a link to the service that you’ll be using to host the invite. Consider using a platform that people are already familiar with. If you’re using a new platform or one that is less familiar for people, send the support information ahead of time, to give people a chance to get accustomed to the platform.
Tip #6) Prepare the Guests
A few days before the event, send an email with contact information and social media handles introducing guests to one another, as well as what attendees can expect from the upcoming event. Get them excited to attend by highlighting what makes this a unique opportunity.
Tip #7) Care Package
Send a care package to attendees before the event. If this is a sponsored event, it gives you a chance to highlight sponsors by using their brand or logo on the gifts or by including some of their products in the packages.
Tip #8) Surprise
Everyone loves freebies and goodies but it’s even more fun if you don’t see it coming. Especially if the care packages are a surprise, make sure they arrive at least the day before your event so that your guests will have everything ahead of time.
Tip #9) Make it Special
Include an item that is from a local or artisanal business. It gives a touch of extra care. Many of these retailers have online stores. Anything you can do to make your event and the overall experience memorable for your attendees, can serve as icebreakers for the event and will solidify their engagement with you.
Now that you’ve laid the foundation for a one of a kind networking event let’s get started on what to do during the actual event. Ensure that you have the tools to match the expectations set when you laid the groundwork for your event.
Tips For Hosting a Virtual Networking Event
Tip #10) Early Is On Time
If you’re the host of the event make sure the waiting room is available 15 minutes before the event so that attendees can settle in. You’ll want to be available to attendees about five minutes before the start time to make sure everything is working correctly and begin welcoming guests.
Tip #11) Greetings
Just like with an in person networking event you’ll want to greet your guests as they arrive as a way to welcome them to the event. Make them feel comfortable by providing a few simple instructions or asking them if they need help.
Tip #12) Prepare Your Guests
Once your attendees have all arrived, kick off the event by letting them know what to expect. Keep everyone on the same page right from the beginning and let them know you’re there to help with any questions they have along the way.
Tip #13) Plan ahead for an Early Exit
Included in your event introduction, ask if anyone is going to have to leave early. Depending on your event, this can be helpful to give those attendees a chance to go first in introductions and it prevents awkward exits if people need to leave early.
Tip #14) Start the Party
You’ve set the stage in terms of expectations and you’ve created a structure for your attendees to interact. Make sure you’ve crossed off any other business you need to share up front. Then it’s time to introduce your guests to one another so that they can dive into the main goal — networking.
Tip #15) Short and Sweet
Give an opportunity for your guests to give a few personal and professional details about themselves, like their hobbies, passions, experience, etc. As host, set an example by introducing yourself first. Give the salient points but keep it light.
Tip #16) Buckle In
You are the one who has brought everyone together, now make sure that the conversations are able to keep moving. Ask questions and keep people involved but make sure to stay clear of politics or current events. Run through your planned discussion topics or find moments in the conversation to keep the momentum so there aren’t any lulls.
Tip #17) Keep the End in Sight When Hosting Online Networking Events
Let people know the event is about an hour long and that you can go a few minutes past that. Avoid having the event go past 90 minutes to keep up engagement. You want people to enjoy themselves right up to when the event ends. No need to stretch things out past their prime.
Once you’ve gone through all of those steps, you’re in the home stretch. Just a few more steps and you’ll have covered all of the basics for running a great event and providing a unique and engaging experience, from start to finish.
Tips for the Perfect Finishing Touches To Your Online Networking Event
Tip #18) Afterparty Tips for Hosting Virtual Networking Events
The purpose in networking is to make professional introductions, so make sure to provide your guests with contact information for one another after the event. This will ensure they can connect in the future.
Tip #19) Send Out A Thank You
Send an email immediately after the event thanking people for their attendance. Take this chance to provide them with a call-to-action that keeps you and the attendees connected. Consider mentioning a special moment during the event to make it personal.
Tip #20) Enjoy Being the Host of Virtual Networking Events
Remember to have fun! This is a chance for people to show off who they are and for you to do the same. If you act naturally and enjoy yourself, others will feel like they can do the same.
Best of Luck With These Tips For Hosting Virtual Networking Events!
We hope you enjoyed this list of tricks and tips for hosting a virtual networking event. Want someone else to manage or plan your next event? Consider using an online event planner to help you look like a great host and who can give you the space to enjoy your own event. And be sure you’ve got the right platform to make you a great host.