With continued advancements in technology, like faster internet speeds, high-quality cameras, and software advancements, large live conferences have moved online, putting online event platforms in the spotlight.
While at in-person events, attendees have the freedom to mingle freely, the same is true with online networking events with the right approach, platform, and execution. As many are finding today, you can offer the same benefits of an in-person gathering and give the sense of satisfaction attendees expect from a physical event at an online event. This is why TechCrunch chose Hopin to host its online events.
"One of the primary reasons TechCrunch selected Hopin was its unique ability to recreate the in-person event experience as closely as possible in a virtual environment," said Joey Hinson, director of operations at TechCrunch. "Hopin has modeled its platform after physical venues and enhanced it with various features and tools that are only accessible in a digital world."
Below, we cover tips for creating and running an online networking event that checks all the boxes attendees and speakers expect.
Set the Goals and Purpose of Your Online Networking Event
Every online event is unique and has specific needs. You can start determining your needs by defining the purpose of your virtual event. That will help you best approach its setup, outreach, delivery, and even wrap-up.
Suppose the purpose of your online networking event is to connect your audience. In that case, you'll want to ensure your virtual event platform can handle both presentations with hundreds or thousands of attendees, group interaction, and one-on-one meetings. While large-attendance keynotes are informative, one-on-one interaction ensures attendees make a firm professional connection.
For example, the Womentech Network pulled off a 140,410-attendee online conference that included six keynotes and individual breakout sessions all using Hopin.
With your event's purposes and goals laid out, you're ready to continue planning and launching it.
Format Your Online Networking Event
Now, it's time to start laying the groundwork for your online networking event. The first step is figuring out the format. You must decide if you plan to run it as a traditional question-and-answer session, an open forum, a town hall, or a mixture.
When choosing your format, first consider the number of people you expect to attend.
In Hopin, the number of people attending your event will help you determine which areas of your virtual venue to turn on. For example, if you plan to have more than 500 attendees, you may wish to move keynotes, presentations, speaker panels and so on to the Stage. If you plan on having less than 500 participants, consider using the Sessions area. If you have sponsors of your networking event, feel free to move the group networking to the Expo area inside live sponsor booths.
The second key to online networking events is laying out a schedule. There are many scheduling formats, but here’s one that offers attendees a top-notch experience:
- Start with a 30-minute open session where attendees can mingle. Hopin offers a Networking area that allows attendees to build relationships with other attendees before the event starts.
- Move into an opening welcome speech on the Hopin Stage from a moderator or someone within your company. Here, you can lay out what the attendees can expect and what they will gain from this networking event.
- Follow the welcome speech with a compelling keynote speaker to kick the day off strong.
- Schedule other presentations and panels with small gaps between them, giving attendees additional time to return to the Networking area or to visit additional Hopin Sessions or Expo booths.
- Close with a keynote speaker who’s as moving as the opening speaker. After the closing keynote is complete, the moderator steps back onto the Hopin Stage to wrap up the event by delivering a summary of the event.
Q&A sessions are also a critical part of a networking event, as not everyone’s questions are answered in a presentation. Hopin’s moderated Q&A sessions lets you handle questions easily.
These moderated sessions allow up to 20 people on camera at once and up to 3,000 attendees who ask questions off-camera through the dedicated Session chat. A moderator can screen the questions in the chat system and pass them to the speaker or speakers to answer.
You can also bring attendees on camera to ask their questions and then remove them from the camera after the speaker addresses their question.
As mentioned, Expo Booths are also great networking opportunities — attendees can consume the content they want on-demand, and you can capture their information for future follow-up.
Hopin offers Expo Booths in its virtual events, which allow you to provide attendees with:
- Pre-recorded videos from YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia
- A YouTube playlist
- Live video sessions with up to 10 attendees
- Live chat sessions with attendees
- Slideshow presentations via Google Slides
Depending on your goals, the more attendees you attract to your online networking event, the more effective it will likely be. When networking events become larger, this is where Hopin helps large-scale events feel small again, so nobody feels lost in the crowd.
Some potential attendees may not see the value in networking remotely, but there are plenty of benefits. Focus on these benefits when marketing your event through social media or email campaigns.
Here are a few benefits to online networking events to focus on:
Remote Job Opportunities
People who are looking to work remotely are likely more attracted to remote events and meetups. If your company is looking to promote remote working or is looking for insight on making the move to remote work, this is a great place to learn from those who’ve already made the move.
Also, for job seekers who want to work remotely, they know a company at a virtual networking event is likely open to this work style. Companies like PepsiCo Canada, McMaseter University, and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce are among the hundreds that use Hopin for their recruiting events.
Gaining a New Perspective
Online networking events get you out of the local market and into a national or even global environment. This will help you see how people in other places work and play so you can bring some of those concepts to your area. Sometimes, a fresh solution to an old problem can give you the momentum you need.
More Access to High-Profile Speakers
High-profile speakers are in great demand, and this can leave them deciding between two conferences in different locations because they simply can’t be at both locations, especially given the reduced travel this season. With online conferences, these speakers can speak from wherever they are, freeing them up to do more conferences and making them more accessible.
Several high-profile speakers have appeared on Hopin, including Nancy Pelosi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Venus Williams, Tim Cook, and many more.
Discover New Work Friendships and Strengthen Existing Ones
It’s key that co-workers feel like they have a supportive workplace community. But without the option to go out for lunch or catch up at the water cooler, remote companies need to be more intentional about creating opportunities for teams to connect. Hopin can help with this by providing opportunities for online events like regular virtual happy hours, birthdays, and more.
Spotify uses Hopin to connect Spotifiers around the world. https://t.co/A5KjlqfDBs— Hopin (@hopinofficial) October 6, 2020
Broader Lead Generation
Building leads is a key reason businesses participate in online networking events. Whether it’s potential customers or potential employees, the importance is the same. With an in-person conference, they are limited to who can physically make it there.
A virtual networking event takes the traveling time and expense out of the equation, opening it to more potential attendees to convert into leads.
We often see Hopin events generate an astonishing amount of leads. The ExO World Summit, an event that lasted 56 hours and saw global attendance, had a 90% turnout rate and 2,800 guests. One attendee scheduled 100 follow-up meetings from contacts made at the event.
Finding New Business and Making Sales
Much like the fact that building leads expands with online networking events, the ability to find new business and make sales broadens when you go virtual.
Online events take away the geographical restrictions of marketing in new areas. For example, a small business in Pennsylvania may not be able to market to a range of potential buyers in California because they can’t make it to a conference on the other side of the country. However, an online networking event through a platform like Hopin breaks down this barrier.
5 Ways to Network on Hopin
Whichever software you choose, it should include networking-specific features. These tools should give the same opportunities to connect in small groups and one-on-one settings as in-person events. Here are five of Hopin’s networking features:
1. Automated, 1:1 Matchmaking in the Networking Area
This is like speed dating for networking. It’s the perfect way to connect with people outside your circle quickly and in real-time. All you need to do is click the “ready” button, and our algorithm will automatically match you with a new person at the event. You’ll have three minutes to chat and decide if you want to exchange business cards.
2. Using Paired Ticket Types for Targeted Matchmaking
This feature is similar to #1, but with a more targeted approach. In this feature, managers and board members have one ticket type, and business partners have another. When one person clicks “ready,” the software automatically pairs them with someone from the other ticket type. This is a great way for higher-ups to create business relationships with potential team additions. Maybe you’ll find a good match for an open position or simply a connection you can grow over time.
3. Private One-on-One MeetingsEvents through the People Tab
When you click “people” at the top of the event page, you can view any contact info they submitted, send that person a direct message, or even invite them to a one-on-one video chat. This way, you can initiate meaningful connections with people who have something in common with you. When you see them again at an upcoming event hosted by Hopin, or just a session later in the day, you’ll be able to get to know each other even better.
4. Live Video Group Networking in the Sessions or Expo Booth
Through events provided in this area, attendees can network with small groups and make more meaningful connections. The Sessions tab schedules breakout rooms and group discussions, and attendees can decide which ones to attend. As an event host, you can choose to invite certain attendees or host public events. You can choose to categorize these events with a discussion topic, employee role, speaker, or something else. Plus, the number of sessions you offer is unlimited.
5. Unconferencing and Roundtables through the ‘Create Session’ Button
The event organizer can give attendees the ability to create their own sessions at any time during the event. Rather than listening to a speaker, these roundtables are a chance for attendees to form business relationships in a more casual setting. This is a more freeform setting where they might introduce themselves with icebreakers, chat about the earlier events, how they might help one another with their business goals, or anything else they choose.
Post-event follow-up is highly useful in networking events, especially those done online. Hopin makes this follow-up communication easy by recording attendee data, including contact information. Your initial follow-up email should go out within 24 hours of the event ending — begin it by thanking them for attending.
Other information you can include in the email is the speakers' social media or contact info, a summary of the event, your plans for upcoming events, and an anonymous survey. The latter will allow the attendees to provide feedback on what was good and what you’d like to improve during your online event. You can then change your next event to meet your attendees' needs.
With Hopin’s “Connect” button in the networking area, attendees have already had the opportunity to share contact info, so they can follow up with the individuals they connected with during the event.
Create Masterful Online Networking Events
While in-person networking still holds value, technology and platforms like Hopin allow us to take these experiences online and broaden their reach.
In-person interaction during an online event takes planning, but it’s completely possible. With Hopin, you can create the successful online networking event you're aiming for.