Tips for successful online networking

Physical networking has its challenges, but it feels more complicated than ever now. Jim Sharpe, CEO at Aventri, offers suggestions on how to bring about a fruitful networking session among event attendees.

Building a network of suppliers and contacts is paramount in the MICE industry. But as members of the business events community are unable to meet face-to-face in this current climate, virtual networking has taken its place.

Here are some tips for event planners to help get the conversations flowing.

• First, select the technology to engage virtual attendees. For better networking, you want tools to enable one-on-one meeting scheduling, private video calls and chat within sessions.

• Also check to ensure breakout rooms are part of the platform. Then, curate small breakouts based on attendee interests. Ask experts to moderate sessions and encourage participation. Attendees can engage in real-time through two-way video calls and public and private chat.

• Provide a networking area, where attendees can jump in and have conversations with each other between sessions. Options abound, such as networking lounges, group chats, virtual coffee bars, mobile event apps, video meet-ups and more.

• For smaller groups, create brief interactive segments. Choose from team trivia challenges, meet-the-expert opportunities, moderated chat channels, happy hours, mini-yoga sessions, live deejays, standup comedians, gamification, themed parties and more.

• For experiential segments like cooking classes, consider sending kits of supplies before your event. Use online polls to determine attendee preferences and make sure the items you send are ones they will enjoy.

• Track attendee engagement. Capture metrics like page views, digital networking, session selection, dwell time, question submissions, polls, downloads, social media likes, and more.

• Then, connect like-minded participants. Modern digital event platforms use artificial intelligence to match delegates with experts and peers who share their interests. The technology also recommends sessions, exhibitors and networking opportunities based on an attendee’s preferences and event goals to facilitate meaningful interactions.

• Make it easy for attendees to connect. For example, create a searchable database with attendee profiles that are optional to fill out. You’ll help attendees connect with like-minded peers.

• Finally, don’t limit engagement to the day of your event. Create small networking groups beforehand that align with attendee preferences. On the day of your event, group members can convene in a networking session. Post-event, continue the conversation, sharing customised content with attendees.

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