In-person networking has been heavily transformed by the pandemic. Even in 2022, when people can, for the most part, move freely and attend in-person events, according to Forbes, 92% of survey respondents are more likely to tune in to online networking parties.
Cost-effectiveness is also at play here – for 88% of event attendees, virtual networking is a saving measure. Time gains, too, contribute to the growing popularity of virtual events.
For event managers, hosting online networking events is also cheaper and more convenient. However, some may struggle with finding the activities that would help break the wall between participants and increase engagement.
In this post, we will examine 10 virtual networking ideas that will help people connect proactively and increase satisfaction.
#1. Speed networking
Purpose: help attendees connect with everyone at the event
Technology: private spaces for 2-3-minute 1-on-1 discussions
A broader reach is one of the biggest advantages online events offer. A virtual venue helps connect thousands of people from all over the world – that’s why the event management team should find ways to help attendees make the most out of each interaction.
Speed networking is an excellent opportunity to get people in touch with each other in a low-pressure environment. It is easy to set up online – create private spaces where attendees can connect for 2-3 minute conversations. Once the time elapses, people are shuffled again and matched with a new contact.
#2. A networking dinner party
Purpose: help guests bond over sharing a meal and make the event more memorable
Technology: online meal delivery system like Uber.Eats
In the pre-pandemic event, buying someone a lunch was an effective way to connect and dinners were a popular networking party format.
Sharing a meal together is an excellent icebreaker – it gives everyone a common topic for discussion, removes tension, and creates positive memories. That’s why hosting a dinner networking party is an excellent idea for a virtual event.
In oVice, we hosted several networking dinner events where participants ordered meals using our oVice Kitchen catalog and got them delivered on the day of the event. Discussing the food was a good conversation starter and helped guests smoothly shift to deeper discussions – career opportunities, partnerships, or investment prospects.
#3. A seminar with a speaker
Purpose: attract more people to a virtual event by hosting a session (workshop, Q&A) with a thought leader
Technology: stage for broadcasting, screen sharing for presenting
An online event will get more publicity if it has a big speaker name attached to it. Some of our clients hosted two-part networking events – the first one was a presentation by a thought leader and the second one was a discussion among participants.
During the speaker’s talk, guests can get used to the venue, casually connect with each other, and communicate in chat. After the presentation is over, attendees can form smaller groups to discuss key points and share feedback.
Besides, inviting a speaker to an event helps make sure all guests leave with new knowledge and insight.
#4. Round table events
Purpose: knowledge exchange, getting to know people who are dealing with similar industry problems
Technology: an area where all participants can see each other and interact comfortably
Gathering people to discuss the breaking news in your industry is a great way to exchange opinions, foster creativity, and get conversations going.
We recommend setting up a discussion area in the event venue where people can comfortably share opinions. Be sure to assign a moderator who would establish and follow the ground rules of the discussion.
Asking questions throughout the discussion helps make sure the conversation doesn’t stall and introduce new viewpoints.
#5. Ice-breaker games
Purpose: create a low-pressure environment that enables participation and creativity
Technology: customizable ice-breaker area for higher immersion, audio chat, video conferencing
Playing a few rounds of team-building games will help get the event started and lighten up the mood. Although virtual events don’t have as much room for creativity as in-person gatherings, you can still break the ice with Two Truths and a Lie, virtual scavenger hunts, and others.
Charades are another helpful way to get creative juices flowing and create a relaxed atmosphere at the event.
#6. Storytime events
Purpose: help attendees bond over common pain points and accomplishments, knowledge-sharing
Technology: areas for different types of storytime meetings, group conference rooms
Startup founders, team leaders, or professionals in any industry often attend online events to feel unity with their peers, bond over shared experiences and find solutions to their problems.
That’s why storytelling is an effective way to supercharge a networking event. You can create different sections where attendees can choose the kind of stories they want to exchange (e.g. building a startup, team management, facing industry challenges, and others).
Create a culture of participation by encouraging people to ask questions, comment on other people’s presentations, and offer solutions to the problems highlighted in someone’s story. A non-judgmental attitude among participants is crucial to making a storytime event a success.
Purpose: connect attendees through informal discussions about their passions
Technology: customizable areas for two-birds-of-a-feather sessions (you can style them with posters or artwork to encourage the conversation flow).
Even though the main purpose of networking is to help people build professional connections, helping attendees connect by discussing their interests outside of work is a creative way to loosen up the mood.
Networking event moderators can set up a two-birds-of-a-feather area – here, participants will be able to form groups and discuss shared tastes in music, literature, film, etc.
We recommend keeping polarizing topics like politics and religion off the table to keep the atmosphere lighthearted and playful.
#8. Virtual watch parties
Purpose: increase interest in the event by offering attendees thought-provoking content to watch
Technology: reliable virtual event venue that can broadcast high-quality videos without delay
“Netflix and chill” is one of the most popular ways to make friendships and it can be just as applicable in starting professional connections.
Before the event, share the list of movies shortlisted for the watch party and have attendees vote for the winner. Alternatively, you can keep the name of the movie a secret and have people guess it as an event ice-breaker.
During the session itself, encourage chat discussions and reactions. After the movie is over, have a feedback and Q&A session to give attendees a chance to share opinions and connect.
#9. A breakout session
Purpose: low-pressure small talk between participants
Technology: a lounge area that’s easy to enter and leave, relaxing music or background sounds
At a networking event, create a lounge area where attendees can come and leave at their convenience and connect with each other through low-pressure small talk.
To make the environment more relaxing, we recommend playing lo-fi beats or nature sounds in the background. This will help attendees relax and deal with being overwhelmed.
We recommend not limiting the topics for discussion in the lounge area, allowing guests to take the initiative and connect at their own pace.
#10. A cocktail-making workshop
Creating something together will help attendees to bond, let their creativity loose, and have fun while bonding with peers in the same industry. A cocktail-making event, for one, is a great way to engage guests and leave them with a delicious drink as the memento of the event.
Before the gathering, send the attendees the pack with all the ingredients. Prepare a video that would walk people through the process or invite an expert who will go through every step of the process and answer questions.
Frequently asked questions
What is a virtual networking event?
A virtual networking event is an online gathering that encourages attendees to connect and build professional relationships. There are different types of virtual networking events: round tables, storytelling sessions, seminars, and others.
How do I host a networking event virtually?
- Set the date and choose the topic
- Set up a virtual event venue
- Create an event program
- Promote your event on social media and other platforms
- Moderate the space on the day of the event to encourage connections between participants
How do I make a virtual networking event fun?
- Create an immersive event venue
- Decide on the list of engaging activities before the event
- Encourage attendees to connect with each other during the event
- Offer guests a wide range of activities
- Collect feedback after the event to provide a better experience in the future
What is virtual speed networking?
Virtual speed networking is a way to help all attendees to get to know each other. Create 1-on-1 rooms where guests can chat for 2-3 minutes and then match them with different participants.
A virtual event party is a cost-effective and creative way to connect teams within your organization, build awareness in your target industry, or handle prospecting. Planning the event in advance will help you make sure discussions are uninterrupted and everyone is enjoying their time.
For a successful event, we recommend combining the sections listed above. You can do it by choosing a platform that allows participants to freely move between areas and effortlessly connect with each other for 1-on-1 discussions or spontaneous group chats.
If you are looking for reliable, customizable, and immersive virtual event platforms, oVice is the right fit. Hundreds of event planning teams have used oVice for team-building events, networking parties, and webinars. The platform’s redundant infrastructure helps support thousands of guests with no risk of downtime or audio and video delays.
Learn more about our solutions for events and discover how companies successfully hosted events in oVice. To see if our venues have all the features you need for a successful event, visit the demo space.