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How to Plan for a Virtual Networking Event
Virtual events have been on the up and up for the better part of a decade. But they truly rose to prominence in 2020.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. lots of events were cancelled. Others were rescheduled. But many were held digitally! Now, with several months of trial and error under their belts, thousands of organizations are planning to host new and improved virtual networking events this year.
So welcome to 2021, the year of virtual networking events ! To help you successfully plan and organize your event, Judge has put together a list of 6 helpful tips.
But First…Why Virtual Networking Events, Anyway?
The worldwide pandemic notwithstanding, there are some obvious benefits to hosting virtual events. For one, they allow you to connect with an audience all over the country — or all over the world for that matter — without being bound by geography. And while it’s true that organizing virtual events requires a very different set of skills than in person events, the underlying goals remain the same: provide a thriving ecosystem for people to meet, exchange ideas, and engage with one another.
Tip #1: Set Goals
What do you hope to accomplish? Is your goal to bring your network together for a particular project? Is it to generate leads and prospects? Is your aim to organize an event for industry professionals? Whatever your answers to these questions, think carefully about your goals and paint a clear game plan and marketing strategy.
Tip # 2: Pick a Platform
The virtual platform you choose should be a good fit for your needs, making your event logistics as simple as possible. A quick Google search will give you some ideas about what platforms can best meet your needs. Need breakout rooms after the main event? Make sure the platform supports it. Want screen sharing? Double-check that. It’s important to understand the demands of your event, and test a platform’s functions multiple times beforehand. Also, make sure to read plenty of customer reviews! If your event is a large one, consider hiring an expert, or set up a meeting with the platform’s customer support team.
Tip #3: Create an Agenda
With so many avenues to keep track of, an agenda will help everyone stay on the same schedule. Take into consideration your goals, the size of your audience, and the length of the event. The agenda should also include what messages you plan to share, and when. This will help you ensure your target audiences are receiving the right messages, at the right time.
Since a virtual networking event can’t replicate the impromptu experience as an in-person event, make sure to include enough time for everyone to interact and feel heard.
Tip #4: Market the Event
How well you market your event can often be the biggest determinant of how successful it will be. Social media is a great place to start promoting the event to your audience. In addition, personal outreach is a must!
Besides the obvious benefit of increasing the likelihood that people will attend your event, you can also use your marketing communication to share details and give your messaging a personal touch. Give yourself enough time to promote the event and send multiple reminders about registration and attendance.
Tip #5: Prepare and Plan
Once you’ve established your goals, the professionals you’d like to attend, and a general agenda, it’s time to start sending out your formal invites! Ideally, you’ll make this process as simple as possible. So, provide clear instructions for downloading and test running any necessary software, and include any meeting passwords. To reduce confusion, share the agenda, along with descriptions of smaller events, so attendees know what to expect.
Tip #6: Follow Up
Your event is over, and it was a big success. Congratulations! But your job isn’t over just yet! Always follow up to thank your attendees, recap the events and takeaways, and ask for feedback via a short survey. Ideally, the relationships you make are not just for the length of your event, but rather, are meant to last throughout your career. Do this, and you’ll create valuable, long-lasting professional relationships.
Conclusion: How to Plan a Virtual Networking Event
Organizing virtual networking events can be very time consuming and cause some serious headaches! You must think of every detail, make each event easily accessible, and create value for your attendees. But with these tips in your arsenal, you’ll have a great chance at success! Happy networking.
P.S. For tips on how to host an effective virtual meeting, click here.
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