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The networking lessons I learnt after a year of virtual events

Events open again
Events open again

Tim Groot, CEO and founder of trailblazing event and networking platform Grip, takes us through the networking lessons he learned after running virtual events throughout 2020.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 was the year of online networking and digital events. With event spaces in the UK starting to open, in-person events are back on the table and hybrid events – a combination of in person and digital experiences – are leading the way forward. 

The lessons learned from going digital will be more important than ever as we navigate new event formats that deliver more value and a richer experience for all involved. Following over a year of consulting on online-only event experiences, I want to share my five fail-safe steps to make digital networking as fruitful to you, and your company, as possible. 

1. Developing your strategy 

Events mean business and it’s important to ensure you’re driving business results. Therefore, as with all industry events, setting clear goals when attending digital events helps to maintain focus. It’s worth investing time to determine which event experiences will be your priority, and if it’s a hybrid event, whether the experience is in-person or online. Each kind of event needs its own strategy and understanding of how to engage different audiences and attendees.  

For example, when it comes to industry events it’s important to remember that size isn’t everything. Some of the most successful digital events can be from smaller, more targeted audiences looking at niche topics. Often this means a richer experience for attendees as they have a closer alignment between goals and expectations from the event. 

2. Looking through the agenda and identifying key contacts 

This may sound like an obvious place to start but we’ve noticed that people attending online events tend to do significantly less prep than they would if it was an in-person iteration. It can be easy to miss certain experiences if you have a packed agenda in front of you, especially if you’re attending a digital event from home or an office environment. 

Take the time to read through the agenda, identify event experiences which are most valuable to you and to structure your digital networking around these experiences. When attending digital events it can be easy to get distracted or miss major event developments. The last thing you want to do is to inconvenience anyone you have an interest in meeting with. 

The agenda will also help you to identify what kind of crowd you’re joining and who would be most valuable to connect with. There are often subsects of people at industry events who attend for a specific reason or event experience (as opposed to having an interest in the overall event theme). The agenda is the perfect place to scope out who might be interested in what, and where your networking priorities might lie.

RSVP lists and social media can be a great point of call to quickly identify who would be valuable to connect with. There may even be an opportunity to line up some pre-event networking by reaching out through direct messaging, laying initial groundwork which will pay off on the day. 

3. Build your online and social profiles 

Whichever event platform you are using for your event, it’s important to build out your profile, in particular adding colour to what you do, your goals and who you are looking to connect with. Your platform profile is the first point of call other industry contacts will have with you on the day, so ensure it accurately reflects your goals and inspires interest from others in your field. 

Having some kind of social media presence can also help bolster your profile, by using tools like Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with sector specific stories and news events, and to position your particular area of interest. Social media can also be a great way to advertise your time to others, encouraging connections from the very first moment you RSVP to your event. 

4. Be the best version of yourself 

Although having clear goals in mind is key to success, an added benefit of online events are the countless ways you can get involved, to build your own profile and promote your business. 

Online events have numerous offerings and opportunities to get involved with. They are sometimes more democratised than their in-person counterparts, as they are cheaper to run and generally attendees have more time to burn. 

Round tables and panel sessions are an excellent way to lend your company voice, lay out your priorities and meet people of interest. Don’t be afraid to be proactive by getting in touch with your event organiser about your needs before and during the event, to make the most of every opportunity you are given. 

5. Follow ups are the final, most important step  

Finally, it’s important to follow up on any contacts made from your online event to make the most of this window of opportunity. It’s likely you and your contacts were networking on back-to-back video calls. So, to ensure you stick in their mind and make the most of these new industry contacts, it’s important to follow up with an email providing a brief overview of your conversation and to pick up significant opportunities or discussions. 

At this stage, assessing your original goals will also help to direct your follow ups. For example, did you make contact with anyone who is particularly relevant to specific areas of business development? The added benefit of online events is that your chosen platform’s RSVP lists will flag any contacts you didn’t get the chance to connect with, providing the perfect opportunity to reach out to them following the event. 

How digital offerings are informing the hybrid future 

Digital networking has become an integral part of today’s business landscape, enabling industries to better connect across the world. As we increasingly rely on hybrid event formats to cater to different audience expectations, the key to successful networking is focusing on your business priorities, making the most of the event experiences on offer and having a detailed understanding of the kind of audience you are engaging with. 

About the author

Tim Groot, CEO & founder of Grip

Tim is the CEO and founder of Grip, the first market engagement platform for event organisers to create virtual, hybrid and live event experiences in a single solution. 

Tim was first introduced to the events industry through his family’s business. Raised in the Netherlands, his father was a tulip farmer and Tim would travel with him to international trade shows. Using his experience from this and other roles within the events industry, Tim founded Grip in 2016 to help maximise the return on time invested from attendees and exhibitors attending industry events. 

By using AI powered algorithms, Grip provides personalised matchmaking recommendations and event experiences to attendees, whilst increasing revenue opportunities and providing event analytics to exhibitors and organisers.

Tim Groot, CEO & founder of Grip
Tim Groot, CEO & founder of Grip