Virtual networking – what is out there and what should I go to?
Virtual networking is here to stay, certainly until there is a Covid-19 vaccine, the majority of us are not comfortable to be out face-to-face networking (notwithstanding government restrictions that change weekly).
So, it’s time to embrace it if you haven’t already!
Since lockdown, we have tried to embrace technology and lead the way with our own Ladies Lunch Club events. As our events are not-for-profit, we needed to find a low-cost virtual solution, and that tool is Zoom. In this blog, I am going to cover the top 3 networking tools I have used (there will be others out there – do share with me your experiences!).
Zoom – An easy to use low-cost solution. We use this for our Ladies Lunch Club meetings and our local chamber of commerce also uses it. There is lots of talk about Zoom fatigue, as it is also being used to replace in-person meetings. So, if you are planning to run an event, you may be confronted with some reluctance if you host it on Zoom.
As a user, it is simple and easy to use. In my opinion, it is not suitable for events of more than 25 people as you will then split on to more than 1 screen which makes it harder to network. Any good networking event will make the most of the function rooms that allow you to network in smaller groups for a defined period of time.
Remo – probably my favourite tool to date and the most ‘lifelike’ platform that resembles networking in person. Now different groups are using the platform in slightly different ways. I am going to plug my friends at Network My Club (NMC) here as, in my opinion, they are using it brilliantly to facilitate networking. There is an agenda and a timed structure. This should appeal to most people, as often the fear of networking is the moment you ‘walk into the room and don’t know anyone’.
At the start of the NMC event, Remo will allocate you to a table when you enter. You will then have 10 minutes to ‘chat’ before the host comes on to present. At this point, you can’t see who is on your table and you are ‘forced’ to pay attention. After a short introduction to the event and an explanation from the host about the format and key highlights (breakout rooms, 1-2-1 tables, IT helpdesk, etc.), everyone returns to the tables for three 10-minute networking rounds. There is a timer, so you know when to move on to the next table.
Whilst in networking mode, you can see the whole floor plan so you can see where people are that you may wish to speak with (just like in the real world). At the end of the networking rounds, NMC brings on a guest speaker. Other networking groups will run things differently I am sure, but this format really does work.
We recently used Remo for our Professional Services Marketing Conference, and it worked exceptionally well, and unlike Zoom, the delegates had the chance to network too. It has also been used for a virtual expo!
Hopin – this is my latest discovery! I had heard people talk about it and that it was similar to speed dating. I was curious so wanted to try it for myself. I have to say, I loved it. It isn’t as pretty as Remo, in terms of the design and the polished simplicity, but if you follow the tutorials, then it is pretty straight forward.
The event I attended was run by Go Get Networking. The format was, you enter a reception are as you arrive, then the networking ‘opens.’ You click on the networking button, and the system pairs you up with someone else who is available. You then have 6 minutes to chat, you can choose to ‘connect’ with someone, which means you get one another’s contact info. It is quite full on as the 1-2-1 is much more intense than having a group conversation. However, you can dip out, make a cup of tea, or check your emails. The system then asks you to confirm you are ready for your next match.
This system, like Remo, also has a stage but it is much harder for an organiser to get you to pay attention as you have to actively choose to see the stage and come out of the networking mode. There is a chat functionality where the organisers can signpost you to, but you can ignore this and continue to network. It will be interesting to see how other groups utilise Hopin.
I think online networking is here to stay, and you are only missing out if you don’t take part! My advice is… embrace it!
“Lara knows everyone. That may not be entirely true but, having attended a number of networking events with Lara, it certainly seems that way. Lara has an obvious talent for working the room and putting people in contact with each other. She instinctively knows who might be able to help who and will effortlessly introduce them at the next opportunity. I can think of no greater skill for someone in the marketing sector. In short, if you don’t already, it’s Lara you need to get to know.” – Rod Hayler – Old Bailey Solicitors.
If you would like some tailored training on how to get the most out of your networking or to get some help in identifying which events are right for you, drop me a line – firstname.lastname@example.org