July 9, 2021September 6, 2021Marketing9 Min Read5 Virtual Event Networking Tools to Boost Engagement and ConnectionOlivia VanCurenVirtual events and networking sounds can be the perfect combination if you use the right tools. While it can be challenging to facilitate high engagement and connected discussions when everyone is at home behind their computer screens, it’s more than doable!Thankfully, over the last year, the industry has developed powerful tools to facilitate virtual experiences that mimic in-person networking. These tools bring virtual conferences to life and encourage virtual attendees to stay engaged and immersed in the event. This article will cover the features necessary to power virtual networking and introduce five virtual networking tools that can help you create rewarding, immersive experiences for your virtual attendees. Real-Time Interactions Power Virtual Event NetworkingBefore we dive into the networking tools, let’s talk about the virtual event platform features that facilitate high attendee engagement. The goal is to focus on real-time interactions.Real-time interactions keep attendees networking and flowing with your event while preventing them from getting distracted.How can you promote real-time interactions that power virtual networking? Here are four ways:1. Event appHigh-powered engagement is impossible without a high-powered event app. Event apps become a connection hub and promote a feeling of community among attendees. It’s where they can share content, connect individually, engage with sponsors, post updates, compete in games, and so much more. Your virtual event must have an event app to create memorable, engaging experiences for your attendees. 2. User profilesSuccessful networking on your event app or platform starts with giving attendees the ability to create custom profiles. Allow them to upload a profile picture and add interactive elements such as fun facts, likes/dislikes, social media links, professional information, and personal gender pronouns. The purpose of profiles is to enable attendees (and sponsors) to provide a great first impression for networking and show a more personal side of themselves. 3. Seamless networking Look for community features that facilitate seamless connectivity. A robust virtual event platform should allow attendees and sponsors to search for and accept/deny connections similar to platforms like LinkedIn. The more intuitive a virtual event app, the better. A feature such as Socio’s Smart Connection Reminders allows your attendees to browse through recommended connections directly in the platform, so they can connect with the right people.Direct and group attendee messaging inside the app allow your attendees to chat one-on-one with their connections or within groups. Chat functions can include photo/video sharing, location sharing, meeting scheduling, and other networking features. Another fun feature that replaces business card swapping is “Shake to Connect.” People can shake their phones to get randomly connected to another person looking to network. 4. Post-event communityThe sessions are over, but that’s just the beginning of community building. The post-event community should continue long after your event, which is why using the right event app is critical. Convert your app into a community space and keep the networking going months after the lights go down.Virtual Event Features that Power NetworkingWhat features can promote networking connections and reinforce the need to engage? Let’s discuss a few key features to look for when assessing different virtual event networking tools. 1. Keep the Virtual Conversation Going with Direct MessagesYour attendees should be able to direct or group message other platform members and hold private conversations. Enable topic-focused live feeds (or social walls) where your entire event community can mingle, share fun photos, interact, or ask questions–– it’s totally up to them! 2. Foster Communication Between Virtual Attendees and PresentersLive chat is a must! Let attendees and presenters chat in real-time, ask questions, and get answers. Enable live chat during sessions and before and after so attendees feel like they can communicate whenever they desire, similar to an in-person event. 3. Promote Virtual Engagement with Q&AWith live chat, hold real-time Q&A sessions. Attendees can post questions during sessions for presenters to answer at a specified time after the talk. Designate session times for just Q&A on specific topics, so attendees feel heard and valued. Pro tip: make it fun by asking gamified questions before sessions about the upcoming content, so they stay engaged during the presentation.4. Drive Virtual Attendee Interaction with Live PollingEmpower your attendees to share their knowledge and insights with live polling. By asking attendees questions via polls, it shows them that you value their input and encourages participation. Live polling provides an easier way for attendees to interact and depending on the questions you ask, they can help you better understand your audience. Besides interaction, use polls to get feedback in real-time or after an event. Or, ask questions about sessions, trivia, or simply ask them a fun fact about themselves as an icebreaker. People want to be engaged; you just have to give them a good reason to do it.5. Bring on the Virtual Fun with Gamification Who doesn’t love playing games and getting prizes? Gamification is an essential feature for virtual event platforms because it gives attendees fun and rewarding incentives to engage. Anything from sharing pet photos to session-themed questions will work as a game. Use games for event-themed content and weave in fun activities such as scavenger hunts, trivia, group games to promote networking, and themed games around behaviors like coffee lovers, dog owners, garage sale hoarders…you get the idea. 6. Equip Your Attendees with Full-Scale Virtual NetworkingMost importantly, ensure your online event networking tools include specific full-scale networking capabilities. We aren’t just talking about breakout rooms which most decent tools can facilitate. A successful virtual event hinges on your ability to allow passionate and fruitful networking among attendees, presenters, and sponsors. The most memorable events cater to attendees’ preferences, which requires segmenting capabilities. So, in addition to general networking sessions, consider holding targeted sessions based on attendee roles and preferences. Your event platform should gather personal data and use it to curate personalized attendee experiences. Use this data to provide unique sponsorship opportunities involving focused attendee segments. In addition to engagement and networking, your virtual event platform should also include features that power your event to its highest potential. The last thing you need is to constantly worry about mishaps, mistakes, and technology issues with everything else on your event plate. Seamless, automated, simplicity—look for these attributes when choosing an event management platform or virtual networking tool.If you want to see these engagement features in action, check out the recording of our recent “Raising the Bar on Virtual Events” webinar. 5 Virtual Event Networking Tools To Bring Your Online Events To LifeThe right virtual event networking tools will take the guesswork (and migraines) out of planning high-powered events. Planning an engaging, memorable virtual event doesn’t have to be that difficult. This section will detail some tools to help you bring the networking element to your virtual event. Each tool offers different features, so your choice will depend on your needs and event goals. We listed solutions for larger as well as smaller events depending on your needs.If you are looking for maximum engagement and interaction, choose an end-to-end event management platform like Socio that houses premium networking features to power amazing virtual events.SocioOh hey, it’s us! Socio is an end-to-end event management platform that has powered virtual, hybrid, and in-person events for organizations such as Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Nike, Harvard University, and thousands more around the globe. Socio is for event managers who need a full-scale solution to power the best event experiences and smash event goals. With Socio, you aren’t just getting a robust event management platform but also a partner to assist you with event management, planning, and execution.Aside from its world-class support, training, and white-glove service, Socio’s platform features are unmatched. Socio’s Virtual Suite enables attendees to get as close to an in-person event experience as possible. Your attendees and sponsors will feel connected via your branded mobile application.Plus, as an event manager, you can forget worrying about live streaming. With Socio Streaming (Restream + Socio), create professional live streams on your own. No need for an AV team or high-tech third-party solutions. Use Socio Streaming to produce professional banners, videos, sponsor ads, and more. Socio also offers all of the networking and engagement features we discussed earlier in this article. Live Q&A, polling, sponsor profiles, native chat, push notifications, Shake to Connect, gamification, video rooms, and so many more networking features (even at the session level) enable attendees to connect seamlessly and join a close-knit community.Socio’s Video Rooms offer topic-focused group chat or 1:1 direct conversations. Provide personalized attendee experiences (customize rooms by roles and preferences), and boost sponsorship ROI with curated experiences, group demos, and more.Your sponsors will also expect a high level of engagement, especially if they are funding your event. Gamification, banner ads, push notifications, attendee segmenting, and more allow you to provide unique promotional and networking opportunities to sponsors and drive sponsor/attendee engagement. Socio features:Customized and branded registrationCurated attendee experiencesGroup and 1:1 networking between all attendeesVideo roomsLive Q&A, chat, and pollingGamificationComplete branding and customization of event pagesQuick and easy event app buildingIntuitive community platformCustomized sponsorship opportunitiesState-of-the-art flexible video streaming and RTMP playerAdvanced reporting and analytics Professional trainingWorld-class support Professional servicesAnd moreSocio helps you create memorable virtual, hybrid, and in-person events effortlessly and forge community connections long after the event ends. Easy to use, scalable, and highly customizable—power your next event with Socio. Want to learn more about virtual networking with Socio? Schedule a personalized demo today with our Socio Event Experts.WonderEver been in a Zoom call with more than 10 attendees? It can soon become a feast or famine. Either everyone vies for the open mic, and one person talks while everyone has to listen, or they politely wait on their turn (even though they don’t know when that is), which creates an awkward silence (anyone have a similar funny story?). Wonder is changing the virtual room space and creating a space for more organic interactions to increase what they call fluid togetherness and the overall fun factor. Set up virtual meeting rooms around specific topics and allow meeting members to move around freely and connect where they want. You can also go into Broadcast mode, where you pause group conversations and set up a virtual stage for people to join. Set up areas for virtual booths or sponsors and customize your background for branding purposes. Note that Wonder does not have all of the engagement features we discussed in this article. It’s more for the event manager or business looking for a space to hold virtual meetings, webinars, or smaller-scale events. Or, if you just want a networking tool for a one-time focused event, Wonder might work for you.CalendlyCalendly is appointment-scheduling software that provides a simple way for people to connect and schedule meetings. Attendees and sponsors can connect their calendars to Calendly and provide their custom calendar link to proposed meeting recipients for easy scheduling. When recipients click on a Calendly link, they pull up the link owner’s personal calendar and can instantly schedule a meeting in an open slot.Real-time interactions via networking are the powerhouse of virtual events, as networking is one of the top reasons people attend events. Face-to-face networking (virtually) and meetings between attendees and sponsors are essential to a virtual event’s success. Calendly can facilitate the scheduling of these meetings and make networking effortless for participants.Calendly integrates with Socio for easy and flexible networking. Use our 1:1 video chat (via video rooms) for face-to-face networking, and book meetings and events with Calendly. Add custom external, internal, and attendee call-to-action Calendly links directly inside Socio’s platform. Spatial Chat Spatial Chat is a tool that brings virtual spaces to life. Similar to Wonder, it unites the physical world with virtual spaces by powering organic interactions. Spatial Chat also uses 3-D realistic avatars via Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality to mimic in-person meetings, where attendees work and interact as if they are next to each other in real life. You don’t need VR/AR headsets to join Spatial Chat meetings. The platform also integrates with any workspace or device when you connect with Spatial’s app. Spatial chat is powering the next generation of virtual meetings using virtual reality technology. Conduct virtual “in-person” meetings and feel like you are in the same room with attendees. Spatial Chat is not an all-in-one event management platform, but it offers high-powered meeting capabilities to supercharge your networking. Miro Miro is a digital collaborative whiteboard platform that allows real-time brainstorming and interaction. The whiteboard houses multiple features such as screen sharing, presentations, video embedding and commenting, and numerous communication options. While Miro doesn’t directly facilitate one-to-one networking, it provides a nice backdrop for icebreakers or visual networking games to foster meaningful sharing among attendees.For example, conduct small group icebreakers and ask attendees to draw their mood on the whiteboard or visually depict where they are joining from. Host topic-focused networking groups and use the whiteboard for visual roundtables on a specific topic, visual Q & A sessions, or collaborative games. Use a digital whiteboard whenever a visual element will enhance the attendees’ experience and provide greater immersion into your event. You can also customize registration and open pre-registration before your event goes live. Suggested reading: Event Management Tools: 21 Essential Software Tools for Modern EventsChoose the Right Virtual Event Networking ToolWhat is the right virtual event networking tool for you? It will depend on your event goals and what you are looking for. If you are looking for an end-to-end event management platform to power your virtual events and take your event networking to the next level, Socio has the goods. Schedule a personalized demo of Socio here and get an inside look at how Socio can simplify your event management and level up your virtual events. Looking for ways to level up attendee engagement? Don’t miss our upcoming webinar, The Fun Starts Here: How to amaze, delight, and engage your event attendees!Olivia VanCurenContent Marketing Specialist @ Socio. Words enthusiast. Passionate about events that foster meaningful connections.