We recently spoke about some strategies to help you build your professional network while working in either a hybrid or fully remote role. One of our suggestions was to host your own virtual networking event, and as promised, today we’re going to show you how to do just that. Now, without further ado, let’s begin.
Determine Your Goals
The very first thing you’ll need to do is determine the purpose of your event. Are you looking to discuss a specific topic relating to your field? Do you want to provide a forum for people in your network to meet with and speak to new people? Will you have a guest speaker? Having this direction will help keep your event focused and running smoothly.
When it comes to hosting these types of events, there is always a chance that things can go off the rails, which is why having a special intention in mind is so important. The purpose of your event should be clearly stated in your invitations and in any social media posts you make leading up to the event. This way, if things do go awry, you can steer the conversation back on track.
Choose Your Platform
When it comes to how you want to host your event, there are many platforms to choose from. It’s important to conduct some research and find the platform that works best for you and the way you want to present your networking event. How many people do you expect will attend? How interactive do you want the event to be? Along with asking yourself questions like these, determine how much money you’re willing to spend on your event.
Some popular virtual networking event platforms are Zoom, BigMarker, InEvent, and Wonder, although there are many more. Platforms like InEvent are great if you want to get creative with your event, as they allow you to customize virtually every aspect of it. Other platforms like Wonder allow attendees to engage with one another in a virtual world, complete with controllable avatars.
Create a Guestlist
In order for your networking event to take place at all, you’re going to need to invite some people. The easiest way to do this is to take a look at your social media contacts and make a list of the people who you think would be interested in attending. For your first event, try to keep the guestlist on the shorter side, as things can get out of control easily when there are a lot of people in attendance.
You can send invitations in a variety of ways, whether through LinkedIn, Facebook, or email, just to name a few. Whichever method you choose, make sure you include the date and time along with a link to the event, as well as other details such as the topic or any preferences and rules you might have.
Social media platforms are great for advertising your networking event. Put out regular posts leading up to the event, making sure to include important details such as the time and date, and the topic of the event. You can get as creative as you’d like, especially if you’ve got some graphic design skills. Here, you could create specialized banners for your social media platforms that feature your event.
Another way to build up excitement for your virtual networking event is to send out an email introducing all the attendees to one another. Here, you can include the names of the participants, links to their LinkedIn profiles, and even some short bios. You should also include all the particulars of the event, along with a statement such as “A big thank you to everyone who plans to attend. We’re looking forward to seeing you at our virtual event!”
During the event, set aside a few minutes for all the attendees to sign in. Make sure you greet each person as they enter, and advise that the event will begin as soon as everyone has arrived. Once the event has started, you can get into introductions by giving everyone a chance to say a little something about themselves. The best way to go about this is to have each participant provide a combination of professional and personal information, such as where they work and what kinds of hobbies they enjoy.
As a host, it will be your job to keep the ball rolling and on track. Be prepared to ask the participants questions such as “How have you adapted to hybrid/remote work?” or “What’s your favorite part about working at [company name]?” If your guests have anything to add, allow them time to do so, but make sure the conversation stays relevant to the topic at hand. Towards the end of the event, you can open the floor to any questions the participants might have. Make sure to set aside ample time for this, as you don’t want to go over your predetermined time limit.
After your event, take the time to write a follow up email to all the participants. In your email, be sure to thank everyone for attending, and encourage them to keep in touch. Once you’ve held your first successful virtual networking event, you might want to continue the tradition. As you build your professional network, you’ll have to make adjustments to your formula in order to compensate for a higher number of attendees. In time, you might encourage others to hold their own events, leading to even more great networking opportunities.
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