My new eBook about virtual event engagement is available for download now. Here’s a snippet from the ebook on reinventing the feel of the coffee hour or the cocktail networking event. 

Facilitating virtual networking has its challenges, to be sure.

Those spontaneous conversations don’t happen the same way online as they do in a physical space. Business cards are replaced with chat, eye contact is difficult to judge, and distractions abound for each individual.

But networking at a virtual event is possible!

Some attendees might even prefer it.

So how do we re-envision the coffee or cocktail hour for virtual events?

It starts with realizing what we can replicate, and then realizing what is superior about networking during virtual events.

What can we replicate?

We can replicate the NEWNESS of a virtual event. Schedule in time for registration and networking before your first session begins – an hour, two hours, whatever makes sense for your audience and your event team.

Instead of locating the coffee shop, the bar, bathrooms, and swag, your virtual attendees will need time to adjust and locate their account, settings, A/V needs, online format for events, knowing who to reach out to with questions during the event, and more. Setting aside a specific day or several hours before the event is the virtual gathering around the registration table for your attendees.

Make space for that enthusiasm, but also the questions!

This can also turn into an impromptu networking event akin to a coffee shop, registration networking, or cocktail hour with a moderated chat for attendees who feel settled in the technology and want to talk about their excitement for the event.

What is superior about virtual event networking?

The superiority of virtual events is in their flexibility.

In a virtual world, everyone is equal. There aren’t any wallflowers who are excluded from conversations, no one gets stuck listening to an attendee they can’t get away from for hours, and introverted personalities are finally on the same level field as their extroverted contacts.

Utilize your event’s breakout sessions in a new way with “speed dating” like networking. With the ability to pop in and out of rooms, no one feels stuck in a bad conversation. Attendees can easily exchange contact information digitally and many breakout rooms impose a name over a video feed – meaning the face goes with the name easier than name badges in person. And don’t forget that the physical limitations of a business conference (fatigue, allergies, jet lag, colds, chronic conditions, introversion, shyness, height disparities) are mitigated or eliminated.

I know a lot of introverts, and while it’s hard for me to imagine it, some of them actually prefer networking online because they can have meaningful interactions without needing to seek out a group.

How do you re-envision virtual networking?

It’s time to re-envision what the coffee hour or cocktail networking events.

In an all-virtual or hybrid event, think virtual-first.

Stretch your imagination to take advantage of time already allotted but also provide value to attendees.

Engineer engagement between attendees, but also between them and sponsors, speakers, and even your event team.

Lastly, it’s time to stop fretting over the way things used to be. It’s time to imagine new ways to reinvent and re-engineer the virtual event experience.

Looking for more ways to up your virtual event planning? Download my free eBook, Virtual Event Engagement, on my website:

Text: ACT Like A Pro in black. Gold signature: Sarah Beth Aubrey. A blonde woman with blue eyes and blue dress smiles at the camera.