These days, event networking is just not the same as grabbing a drink at an evening mixer or walking around the exhibit hall. There are emails to craft, Zooms to schedule, AirPods to charge, it can be a lot of work. Not to mention the whole process doesn’t make much room for real and random conversations. Luckily, organizers actually have a number of interesting networking tools to help people connect. Some are high tech, some low tech, but all are designed to help people make more meaningful connections. Here are a few to get you started.
Use a networking app, like Grip.
Grip, pictured above, is an AI-powered networking app that can suggest to attendees and exhibitors who they will want to connect with at their event. Users can then narrow down potential matches with a “swipe” left or right (a bit like a dating app), and then start up a dialogue. Grip will also seamlessly integrate with your existing virtual, hybrid, or live event platform or structure. But the biggest benefit of an app like Grip is it allows people to network on their own time, and not have to stress about making it to an early Zoom coffee before work. An event networking app can make meeting people at an event feel easy and relaxed, the way it should be.
Plan around a meaningful experience.
Every year the day before the Superbowl, the NFL hosts the Player Networking Event (a get together to help players transition to professional careers after sports). On the surface, it seems like a bummer to plan an event like this day before the Superbowl — specifically for everyone who didn’t make it to the Superbowl that year. But in reality, this date can represent a fresh start for players and encourages them to talk with each other about what they are going through, and their plans moving forward. If there’s one thing that helps people make real connections, it’s talking about a shared experience. As an organizer, try to pick a date that will encourage people to make real connections, and focus on the future because that’s how the best work relationships are built.
Make your event very, very exclusive.
One of the most exclusive things of 2021 has been Clubhouse, an invite-only chat app popular with celebrities, creatives, entrepreneurs, and professionals of all types. Obviously, Cubhouse specifically is not an option as an event app, but we do think there are lessons to be learned from its exclusivity. Think about event networking like you are going to a speakeasy, or a secret party, the fact that you are all there, that you were invited, is an icebreaker in and of itself. Exclusivity, and keeping things small, can help conversations flow naturally, and create a relaxed vibe. Rather than focusing on getting more people in your event, try building an event around people who you think should meet, and then let the word spread naturally after that. Just like in real life.
Think beyond Zoom, Google meet, and all of that.
Preciate is a virtual socializing platform that allows people to “move” around a virtual space while video chatting. Basically, your video stream is in a bubble that can travel side to side, and talk to the people in the other bubbles as you run into them. It’s an interesting concept, which seems designed to mirror how people actually chat in real life. We can see this app being useful for events where a few people might know each other, but maybe not everyone, and you just want people to mingle. Think about it as the perfect app for an evening mixer. Or any kind of event where you want a mix of group chatter, sidebar chatter, and a bunch of different conversations. So maybe all events.
Add a little VR… OK maybe more than a little.
Skittish is a 3D VR networking app that allows attendees to attend their event as a 3D animal (see above) in an outdoor setting. Although still in production, the current version relies heavily on a proximity chat feature — or the concept that if you want to talk to someone, all you should have to do is walk up to them and say “hello.” Skittish was born out of the feeling that Zoom is simply for work now, and going to an event should not feel like work. It should be something different. It should feel real and be an escape from the office, or the home office, or wherever you are working. Turning into an animal, and walking around a green pasture talking to other animals, is definitely one way to escape!
Lastly, have a networking strategy!
The best way to help people network at your event is to simply make sure that “networking” is part of the event experience. Whether that’s with an app or the vibe you set, it will all help people make real connections with people on the other side of the screen. Which is really the most important part of virtual events! Click here for some more event inspiration on ‘How to spark real conversation at your next virtual or hybrid event‘.