Virtual networking events have been growing in popularity for the last few years—mostly because they allow people who live in different parts of the world to connect with each other, without forcing them to leave the comfort and familiarity of their homes.

COVID-19 popularized online networking even more. In-person get-togethers were cancelled for most of 2020 and a significant portion of 2021. Fortunately, digital meet-ups were possible.

Today, virtual networking events are a perfectly normal way for professionals to meet each other and grow their careers. Are you planning to host one of these get-togethers? Then you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Why Should You Host a Virtual Networking Event?

Let’s start with the why, as in “why should you host a virtual networking event?” There are many reasons, but here are the two most important ones:

  1. Virtual networking events allow attendees to meet like-minded individuals, such as potential employers, employees, and business partners. Are you looking for a new job? Does your company need to fill an open position? Maybe you have a killer business idea but need someone to come alongside you and turn your vision into a reality. You can accomplish all of these things at a virtual networking event.
  2. Virtual networking events also help professionals connect with potential leads. If you own a business, you’re constantly looking for new customers. Online networking sessions are great places to meet them—especially if you own a service-oriented business like a marketing agency or a business consultancy.

Of course, you can do both of these things at in-person networking events, too. What makes virtual networking events unique is that you’ll be able to connect with potential employees, business, partners, leads, etc. from anywhere in the world.

This means that you’ll have many more opportunities in front of you if you attend an online networking event than if you attend an in-person one.

How to Host a Virtual Networking Event in 5 Easy Steps

Virtual networking events can be incredibly beneficial—if you host them correctly. Just follow these five easy steps and your online networking sessions will flourish:

1. Identify the Goals of Your Virtual Networking Event

You won’t be able to evaluate the success of your virtual networking event if you don’t identify a goal or two before you host it. What do you want to achieve?

There are plenty of potential goals to chase. For example, your goal could be to meet new people and advance your career. Or to meet more of your company’s target audience so that you can sell them products in the future. Or to increase your brand’s authority. Brand’s that organize online networking events are often seen as industry leaders.

Whatever goal you choose, make sure it’s as specific as possible. If you’re hosting an event to meet potential clients, for instance, make your goal something like “to book sales calls with 5+ prospects by the end of the get-together.” See how specific that is?

Specific goals are much easier to measure and evaluate than vague ones.

2. Choose an Online Networking Platform

You can’t host a virtual networking event without some kind of online networking platform. 

Don’t worry, there are plenty to choose from, including ClickMeeting, which is used by tens of thousands of people in 125 countries around the world. Here are four reasons to use our tool:

  • Custom Branding: If you’re hosting an online networking event on behalf of your company, you’ll want to make the entire experience match your brand. With ClickMeeting, you can add your company’s logo, choose color schemes, and more.
  • Breakout Rooms: Virtual networking events are only effective if people have the ability to connect and engage with one another. Breakout rooms inside ClickMeeting make it easy to divvy up large groups so that attendees can get to know each other.
  • An Analytics Dashboard: Who’s showing up to your online networking events? ClickMeeting will tell you who your attendees are, where they attended your get-together from, and even the device they used to engage with your event.
  • Integrations: ClickMeeting integrates with other tools. For example, you can charge people to attend your virtual networking event via PayPal. Or you can use Zapier to elevate your event by connecting it to thousands of other popular apps.

If you think ClickMeeting might be the right platform for your online networking events, sign up for a free 30-day trial. That way you can test our platform before you pay for it.

3. Market Your Virtual Networking Event

The next thing you need to do is market your virtual networking event. That way people actually show up and can, you know, meet other professionals.

Fortunately, most online networking sessions are intimate gatherings, which means you probably don’t need to invest a ton of resources into promotion. Still, some marketing might be necessary to ensure your guests have a chance to meet interesting people.

Start by inviting your personal contacts. These could be current and former colleagues, professionals you’ve met at previous networking events, your company’s top customers, etc. Then start inviting acquaintances you’ve made on social networks like LinkedIn.

Just make sure that the people you invite have similarities, i.e. they work in the same industry or serve similar clients. There should be a commonality amongst all of your guests.

Now, if you’re hosting a virtual networking event to meet prospects, you may need to take a different approach than the one described above. In this scenario, you’ll probably be looking to connect with people you don’t already have a relationship with.

Consider posting about your event in Facebook and LinkedIn groups that cater to your target audience. You might try running social media ads that target these kinds of people, too.

4. Brush Up On Your Event Hosting Skills

Virtual networking events are different from, say, online industry conferences. But they still require a host—preferably one who knows what they’re doing.

Here are a few event hosting tips to get you started:

  1. Prepare Your Guests: There’s a good chance that your guests won’t know how to operate your chosen virtual networking event platform. So, before your event starts, educate them via emailed instructions, video demos—whatever works best for you. Send them an event agenda while you’re at it so everyone knows what to expect.

  2. Start With Introductions: Once your guests have arrived, take a few minutes to introduce everyone to each other. Make it fun by asking attendees to answer icebreaker questions like “what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” or “Name one thing on your bucket list.” This will help stimulate conversation.

  3. Be Active Throughout: The best virtual networking event hosts are active throughout the entire get-together. Don’t sit back and just watch the festivities. Jump in when appropriate and help move conversations along. Remind people how much time is left before your event ends. And be ready to answer any technical queries that arise.

5. Connect With Attendees After the Get-Together

Just because your event ends doesn’t mean your work is done. You need to do two things after your virtual networking event: send thank you emails and promote your next event.

Remember, your guests didn’t have to attend your online networking session. The fact that they did deserves your thanks. So send them a quick email and let them know how much you appreciate their time. Invite your guests to connect with you on social media while you’re at it.

Take a moment to promote your next virtual networking event, too. The best time to get people excited about an event is right after they just attended one. So tell people about your next get-together and ask them to spread the word about it to their colleagues.

Unique Virtual Networking Event Ideas

There’s nothing wrong with inviting people into a virtual room to talk to one another. But if you want to spice up your meetings, give your guests an activity to perform while they network.

For example, you could host a virtual mixology class that teaches attendees how to create their favorite cocktails while they talk shop with each other. Here are a few more unique virtual networking event ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Book Club
  • Workout Class
  • Wine Tasting
  • Painting Class
  • Game Night
  • Dinner Party

These types of online networking events are super fun and will allow guests to get to know each other in less formal situations, allowing for more impactful conversations.

Final Thoughts

Virtual networking events have become standard practice in many industries. If you’re planning to host one of these get-togethers, follow the five-step process outlined above. Once you do, your online networking sessions will become much more effective.

Looking for a reliable virtual networking event platform? Give ClickMeeting a try for free—we won’t even ask you for your credit card information! Start your 30-day trial today.

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Posted by Jacob Thomas

Content writer @ ClickMeeting

Time to move your events online. Do it with ClickMeeting

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