How To Host a Virtual Networking Event: Complete Guide 

Picture of Ben Aflalo
Ben Aflalo

Head of Product at Gloww

How to Host a Virtual Networking Event

Now that remote working is becoming widely accepted by many industry sectors, it’s only natural that the virtual space is being used for networking. Many people already use the internet to explore new career prospects and business opportunities through platforms like LinkedIn. Online networking events take things further, serving as a convenient alternative to the kind of cocktail and conversation events you might have attended in the past to schmooze clients and poach premier talent from competitors. 

Virtual networking brings many of the same benefits as remote work. However, if you want to get the most out of this dynamic alternative to industry networking, you need to be confident you can pull things off in the virtual space. Wondering how to host a virtual networking event? We’ve got all the information you need. 

Why Virtual Networking Matters 

The number of people working remotely has risen significantly over the past few years. While many workers have since returned to the office, a considerable percentage of the working population continues to operate out of their home office, with the hybrid working model blurring the line between remote-only enterprises and traditional in-house operations. 

But virtual work is nothing new. In many industry sectors such as the tech sector, it’s been the standard for some time now. This same demographic has also been tapping into the potential of virtual networking for many years. It is also shaping the future of work.

Virtual networking events are less time-intensive than traditional ones, demanding minimal commitment from attendees. There aren’t any cross-country commutes, with the only travel time being how long it takes to march from door to desk. This makes virtual events a practical option for busy professionals with hectic schedules. 

By taking logistics out of the equation, virtual events are also incredibly accessible. Those with limited mobility or disabilities don’t have to make endless arrangements just to complete a single rail or plane journey. Virtual events are also an attractive prospect for guest speakers and industry insiders. Not having to travel long distances is an obvious incentive for potential speakers, while event organizers won’t have to shell out for the associated travel costs and hotel fees. 

What Do People Actually Want Out of the Experience? 

If you want to host a successful virtual networking event, you first need to decide what attendees are actually hoping to get out of the experience. Some people attend networking events to connect with like-minded professionals active in their chosen field. Others are more interested in learning about rewarding new avenues for continued professional development. 

Then there are those who are focused on more conventional results. Many use networking events to seek out lucrative job opportunities and take the next steps in their career. Networking events are also ripe for the picking when it comes to client procurement. 

Can Networking Even Work Online? 

When people think of networking events, they tend to picture name badges, canapes, and paltry glasses of watered-down wine. However, despite appearances, networking events can prove incredibly fruitful for forging connections, pursuing professional opportunities, and identifying sales leads. 

However, there’s no reason why networking events can’t work in the virtual space, You’ve probably attended at least one or two webinars in the past year or two. These are a kind of networking event. What’s more, if you’re working with remote teams and have staged a virtual holiday party to spread some festive cheer with online-only employees, you’ll have realized the potential of the technology for networking first-hand. 

5 Fun Virtual Networking Event Ideas

Keen to make your virtual networking event as marketable as possible? Below are some easy ways to guarantee more RSVPs. 

1. Think About Inviting a High-Profile Speaker 

Many people attend networking events out of habit. However, a high-profile guest speaker can generate far more interest in a virtual event. Even if people are only flocking to your networking event to hear what their industry hero has to say, there’s a good chance they’ll want to make full use of the opportunity, engage with other attendees, and provide some invaluable word-of-mouth marketing.

Even a single keynote speech from a respected expert in your industry sector can enhance the credibility of your event. Ideally, you’ll also want to include a webinar element to ensure people stick around for longer. Here’s everything about how to promote a webinar.

2. Use Virtual Happy Hours to Break the Ice 

Whether we’d admit it or not, we’ve all probably attended a networking event just for the complimentary wine and refreshments. While you won’t be able to hand out free drinks to attendees during a virtual event, you can still grease the wheels and encourage the conversation to flow by staging your networking event as a virtual happy hour

Customize your platform of choice with appropriate imagery and activities to set the atmosphere. If you’re giving the okay for attendees to enjoy a glass or two of their favorite beverages while attending your event, you might want to consider sending out a polite reminder that overindulging isn’t recommended. 

Use Virtual Happy Hours to Break the Ice

3. Spice Things Up with Speed Networking 

If you’ve attended a few networking events before, you might have encountered the concept of speed networking. It’s almost identical to speed dating, although the goal here is to introduce yourself as a professional and talk about what you do for a living. Rather than focus too much on business, encourage participants to reveal details about their lives away from the office. 

4. Leverage Learning Activities To Connect 

Shared activities are a great way of getting strangers to open up to each other and forge authentic connections that last. Furthermore, a shared exercise means everyone has something to talk about, meaning icebreakers aren’t necessary. If you’re hosting an event around a major holiday, opt for a themed activity inspired by the festivities. If arts and crafts don’t appeal, you can simplify things with a schedule-friendly lunch and learn event.

5. Keep It Simple with a Themed Networking Event

Nobody wants to spend an evening of their own time attending an industry-focused event filled with mundane content they’ve encountered time and again. For a more unique take on networking, choose a left-field theme that you can frame your event around. 

What Are the Main Benefits of Virtual Networking Events?

Online networking events are far more convenient than traditional ones. Provided you’re using a reliable platform to host your networking event, attendees from all over the world can join in. It’s also a cost-effective alternative for those who will be attending. They won’t have to budget for travel costs, not to mention hotel stays and other incidentals. 

As they have a wider reach, virtual networking events will also typically attract a broader range of attendees. Many professionals from emerging markets may wish to attend, opening up a direct line to potential hires and global growth opportunities.

High attendance is also more likely, and you won’t have to worry about limited capacity forcing you to turn interested parties away. By using live features like polls and surveys, you can also gather useful insights from attendees, without having to wait weeks or months for traditional survey forms to be returned. 

5 Essential Elements of Planning for a Virtual Networking Event 

Ready to get started? Below are the key steps you’ll need to consider when planning for a virtual networking event

1. Outline Your Goals Before Thinking About the Little Details

What’s the ultimate aim of your networking event? Is it a platform for introductions, a space for brands to sniff out potential clients, or a venue for up-and-coming professionals to make connections with more established experts in their field? Once you’ve underlined your goals, you can start crafting your event in more detail. 

2. Decide Who You’d Like To Invite  

A networking event is only as good as the people who actually attend it. An online event can be attended by anyone, so you can be more liberal when assembling your guest list. Use professional platforms and email newsletters to spread the word about your upcoming event. However, remember that you want your event to be seen as credible. A smaller gathering of professionals with relevant industry expertise is going to bring the most value to your event. 

3. Choose a Reliable Platform To Host Your Event 

You’ll need a great hosting platform to stage your virtual networking event. If you’re looking for a reliable all-in-one solution, try Gloww. Along with all the usual video conferencing services you’d expect, Gloww’s innovative features allow you to make any online event your own. Choose from a huge selection of ready-made templates if you’re thinking about a themed event, or let your creativity run wild and design your own from scratch. What’s more, it’s easy to make your networking event an interactive experience. Live polls and surveys can be used to generate that all-important feedback from attendees while crowd-pleasing games and collaboration tools are perfect for breaking the ice and getting everyone talking. 

Choose a Reliable Platform To Host Your Event

4. Generate Buzz and Stir Up Interest 

There’s no point in hosting an event if nobody’s going to show up. Make sure the right people have been alerted to your event in good time. Use social media channels to connect with the relevant crowd and spend some time creating bite-sized promotional content that can be uploaded gradually to maintain excitement levels until your event is ready to go. 

5. Make Sure Your Guests Arrive Prepared 

For many people, your virtual event may be the first networking session they’ve ever attended. Therefore, it makes sense to provide them with a brief primer on what to expect. You can keep things simple with a short agenda that outlines what they can expect, what they might need to prepare before attending, and how to access the session itself. 

Common Obstacles of Virtual Networking Events 

Virtual networking is far cheaper and more practical than traditional networking events. However, this online-only model does come with a few unique challenges. 

Maintaining High Engagement Levels 

Waning engagement levels are common during online events like virtual meetings. While people might be too polite to end a conversation with someone in the flesh, they’ll have no such reservations when interacting via a screen. Event content needs to inspire attendees and keep them captivated from start to finish. To achieve this, think carefully about timing. Set a time limit for keynote speeches and break up longer presentations with quickfire games or icebreaker games. 

Maintaining High Engagement Levels

Will Anyone Actually Show Up? 

Even though online events are more accessible than real-life ones, there’s no guarantee of high attendance. If you’ve failed to invest in a promotional campaign and produced very little buzz around your event, there’s a good chance very few people will show up on the day. To prevent this from happening, don’t cut corners when it comes to marketing your event. Use any channel you deem appropriate and encourage users to share posts and news of your event with others who might be interested in attending. You can even incentivize this with contests and giveaways. 

Hardware Hiccups and Connectivity Issues 

While technical problems aren’t as common as they once were, there’s still the possibility that the application you’re using to host an event can fail at the worst possible time. What’s more, individual attendees may struggle to maintain constant connection because of their own hardware and internet limitations. However, you can easily overcome these obstacles by choosing a tried and tested platform. That being said, it’s a good idea to stage a test run of your event to see if a platform is as reliable as its developers have made out. 

Communication Challenges 

Internet speeds vary considerably across the world. Even today, the occasional lag can derail an online video call, while pixelated visuals can render many aspects of a networking event pointless. You can sidestep this by ensuring event content is structured around bite-sized content that can be delivered quickly, with less chance of a technical issue causing disruption.

Nail Your Next Virtual Networking Event with Gloww

Now that remote working has become the new normal for many global brands and millions of working professionals, the need for virtual networking events has never been more apparent. While professional networks offer some scope for securing new opportunities and pursuing sales leads, they are still fairly limited and are a compromise, rather than a substitute for in-person networking. 

The good news is that it’s surprisingly easy to host a virtual networking event. With Gloww, you can create captivating networking events in moments, with a host of innovative tools allowing you to make every moment as memorable as possible. Use ready-made templates to simplify the process or put your design skills to good use and create custom events. Keen to keep engagement levels high and encourage interaction? Gloww lets you embrace gamification, while collaborative tools can be used for critical thinking challenges and icebreakers. 

Are you ready to create and host your first virtual networking event? You can get started with Gloww for free today. If you’re looking for more advanced features to create an industry-leading event that will attract the best keynote speakers and most experienced professionals, why not have a look at our pricing plans? Got any questions? Get in touch with the team today. 

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Picture of ben aflalo
ben aflalo

Ben Aflalo heads Gloww's product team with over two decades of leadership experience. Passionate about leveraging innovative technology, he is committed to building products for the greater good.

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