Good Reads You Might Have Missed: Virtual Networking

Still trying to get a handle on virtual events? Check out some lessons from those who have pulled it off.

While some might be excited by a return to in-person networking, others are in a different boat—those who find it easier to interact with others in a virtual or hybrid setting.

Call it an antidote to the wallflower effect, if you’d like.

Of course, while that may be easier for some, it may not be so easy for your association to manage. How do you make virtual networking work within the confines of your organization? Fortunately, the Associations Now and archives can help lead you in the right direction:

Groups Explore New Networking Options for Virtual Events. One of the big challenges of launching virtual events for many organizations was the loss of spontaneity. And that led many organizations to scramble for new ideas to take that standby of in-person events to a virtual setting. This piece rounds up initiatives by the Association for Talent Development, Society for Clinical Data Management, and others to strike a balance with virtual meetings.

Three Ways to Host Informal Networking Opportunities During Virtual Events. Informality is a key element of networking. People should feel comfortable hanging out and chatting with others—but that can prove difficult to pull off in a virtual setting. This piece highlights virtual success stories, including from the social media event VidCon. “We really wanted to try and as much as possible replicate the interactive experience of an event,” said Jim Louderback, then VidCon general manager, of the event.

Six Tips for Hosting a Virtual Speed-Networking Event. One way to limit the fatigue of virtual networking is to speed it up. That’s the strategy the School Nutrition Association took with its virtual holiday mixer at the end of 2020, an event held on Zoom with more than 400 volunteer leaders. “In addition to meeting new people and seeing familiar faces, SNA members enjoyed the live music and the unique opportunity to relax together,” wrote Jennifer Lewi, CAE, the vice president of career development and conferences for SNA.

How Virtual Networking Can Forge Better Connections Between Coworkers. Virtual networking if done poorly can leave people feeling out of the loop—but if done right can strengthen coworker bonds. One way to encourage that? Emphasize a shared sense of purpose, according to Matchbox Virtual Media CEO Arianna Rehak. “When people come in with a sense of purpose, and everything is very consistent with that purpose, then they are way more likely to engage meaningfully with it,” she said.

Facilitate Effective Intergenerational Networking at Virtual Events. Building a virtual networking approach is one thing—but another entirely when you’re trying to get different generations of people to interact. However, it can be done, explained Meagan Roloff, CAE, formerly of the Association of Child Life Professionals and now with the Health Industry Distributors Association. During her time with ACLP, the organization took steps to connect early-career and young professionals with more seasoned pros. In the past this might have happened over a meal or in an exhibit hall—but moderators led the way virtually. “In absence of those environmental factors, our membership team determined themes for each session and planned prompts for the breakout groups to discuss,” she wrote.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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