4 Reasons to Attend Virtual Networking Events
By: Shira Petrack
If you are trying to start a new business, grow an existing company, or find new clients and business partners, you need to be meeting people and getting your name out there. Unfortunately, in this age of Covid-19, attending an in-person networking event poses a significant health risk. Even with safety protocols in place, traveling to and from the event leads to unnecessary exposure.
Given the perils associated with hosting in-person events during a pandemic, many major conferences have chosen to go virtual. Several startups are working to reinvent remote events and re-create the magic of large in-person gatherings online.
Experts predict that virtual events are here to stay. Some even think that once the Coronavirus is behind us, “hybrid” events – events with both an in-person and online component – will become the norm. After attending more virtual events than in-person ones throughout 2020, it has now become clear that virtual events offer a unique set of benefits.
If you have yet to attend a virtual networking event, you probably have some reservations. You may be thinking – How will I find the people I want to meet? What if my child/partner/cat interrupts me and ruins the critical first impression? Won’t it be incredibly awkward to talk to a total stranger on video without being able to read his or her body language?
To encourage you to take the leap, we are sharing the top 4 reasons to try out this new networking avenue:
1. It’s Convenient
All you need to join a virtual networking event is a working internet connection and a laptop. Some platforms even allow you to join from your phone! You don’t need to figure out transportation, waste time getting to and from the venue, or worry about who will pick the kids up if the event is running late.
Virtual events allow you to tune in for the session’s exact duration and on your terms. If something happens outside the event that needs your attention, you can just pop out of the event – no need to walk for ages in a bustling exhibit hall to find a quiet spot to talk on the phone. And when you’ve solved your problem, you can easily pop back in without worrying about making an awkward entrance.
2. It’s Cost-Effective
This point is related to #1 – virtual networking events are almost always cheaper to attend than live ones. First, the ticket cost often costs less since the event organizer does not need to rent out a convention hall, pay for catering, or rent service or operational staff. You also save on gas, car rentals, and flights. Lastly, you get back the work hours that would otherwise go to travel, which can be quite significant to entrepreneurs and SMEs operating on lean budgets! And if you arrive at the event only to realize that it’s not what you thought – you can always cut your losses and go back to your work, which would never be possible if you were physically in the happening.
3. You Can Meet a Broader Range of People
By definition, all the attendees at in-person events are individuals who could be in the same physical place at the same specific time. This means that many potentially relevant connections miss out due to geographic or scheduling pressures that constrain their travel. Besides, many people won’t travel internationally for smaller networking events, even though the more intimate setting might be particularly conducive for forging connections.
For instance, at Empower Africa, we recently held a 77 person event with attendees tuning in from over 18 countries, which lasted just three hours! While we think it was extremely informative and valuable, most people would not board an international flight for a three-hour networking event. Because this was virtual, however, a much broader range of people attended, which made the networking that much more valuable.
4. It May Actually be Easier to Make Connections
How often have you gone to an in-person networking event only to hang out at the refreshment table or aimlessly walk the exhibit hall instead of meeting other attendees with the potential to turn into valuable contacts? Meeting new people can be challenging – but even introverts need connections to grow their business.
Virtual networking events can break the ice by creating a sense of intimacy that can sometimes be lacking at more bustling, in-person events. The software we use for our virtual networking events at Empower Africa allows you to pop in and out of tables with limited seating, where you can chat directly with the other attendees “seated” at your virtual table. Whereas at an in-person event, you can sit at someone’s table while you both awkwardly stare at your phone, a virtual event can break the ice for you by propelling you into a virtual chat room with the stranger “seated” next to you. And if you find that you don’t have much in common, you can always pop over to another table!
Give Virtual Networking a Chance!
At this point, pretty much all networking events that have not been canceled have moved online. With winter coming and Covid-19 spiking in many major cities, the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Next time you’re debating whether it’s worth spending time and money to engage in remote networking, remember – virtual networking events can save you time and money while allowing you to connect directly and conveniently with potential connections from across the globe!
To apply to join the guest list to Empower Africa’s Driving Business in Africa Virtual Networking Events Series, click here.