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Virtual networking events: the future of how we connect

11 August 2020

Logging onto a Zoom virtual event is fast becoming the norm for many women – and in the age of social distancing, it’s helping many of us stay connected at work and to our local communities, as well as find new ones.

Virtual networking can be a lot of fun, whether you’re logging onto an educational Facebook Live Q&A session run by a brand you love, or a large-scale conference with thousands of attendees. And given there are virtual networking clubs popping up, and newsletters dedicated to only promoting virtual events, it’s clear that this kind of networking is preparing to stay.

Has Covid-19 changed how we network?

Short answer? Yes, to a degree. As social distancing has become our ‘new normal’, it’s killed off face-to-face networking for the moment. For those used to growing their professional relationships at in-person events, meet-ups and conferences, that can be tough. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still nurture your connections and cultivate new ones. You just have to do a different way.

And since the pandemic, and so many new opportunities for us to connect online, we’ve had to become much better at building our virtual networks. Think about it: you probably have lots of people in your network who you’ve gotten to know well over the years – despite never meeting in person!

The benefits of virtual networking events

Sure, there’s nothing quite like meeting people in person and sharing a coffee and swapping business cards at an event. But there are some great benefits to virtual networking events, too.

For starters, the very nature of a virtual event means that geography is no barrier and that makes events, knowledge, support and education accessible to a much wider audience. For you, that might mean meeting people you otherwise never would have – and joining communities you’d never know existed, which can be really exciting.

Such events can also be a way to fast-track your knowledge on a range of topics as many virtual events focus on how-to masterclasses, tutorials and classes run by chefs, personal trainers, actors and authors (Mo Willems’ Lunch Doodles is a live YouTube drawing class kids love). Virtual events can also be a way to visit places you’ve never been – such as museums, galleries or natural wonders.

Virtual events can also help you meet likeminded souls who enjoy the same things you do – just look at the warm’n’fuzzy Couch Choir initiative, which moved its singing events out of pubs and online during the pandemic. This is networking on a grand scale – with thousands of people singing the same song in what looks like a massive Zoom meeting session! That’s not really something you can do offline in the same way – and there’s a FB group for people to share experiences and befriend one another between events. Win-win!

What to look for in a great virtual event

The best virtual events will help audiences connect during and after the fact – either by live-Tweeting the event using a hashtag so people can follow the conversation, encouraging streaming parties, or creating social media groups in Slack, FB or LinkedIn where attendees can debrief, meet their peers and share tips and resources.

Virtual networking events which are linked to social media groups are great for learning, support, conversation and relationship building. One FB group which does this well is the Freelance Jungle, offering events and meet-ups plus a supportive and inclusive Facebook community for people in all kinds of industries, linked only by the fact that they work for themselves.

The pros

How we network is definitely changing due to Covid-19 and social distancing – but it’s actually not such a bad thing. There are lots of benefits to attending virtual events, not least the fact that where you’re based no longer matters.

As so many events shift to online offerings, the opportunities for networking and learning are endless. Now go hunt down a few great events to go to!

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