Networking is (almost, not quite) as old as time. But in 2021, networking events are being redefined.
After what seemed like an eternity of planning online networking events, you’re probably ready to jump back into physical events. But the reality is there’s no going “back” to normal. There’s only leaning into the next generation of networking.
Physical events are back. But virtual components are here to stay.
How do you make your event—whether it’s in-person, virtual, or hybrid—stand out and drive growth?
Table of Contents
- What are networking events?
- Why do networking events matter?
- Who organizes networking events?
- How to make networking events successful
- 12 networking event examples (including hybrid and online networking events)
What are Networking Events?
All events can provide networking opportunities for attendees to engage and connect with other individuals. Networking events aren’t just a particular type of gathering. Instead, organizers can find opportunities to help attendees find valuable connections at any (or nearly any) event.
The next generation of networking events consists of in-person events, virtual events, and hybrid events. Hybrid events aren’t just conferences and trade shows with a streaming component. They incorporate a variety of digital components, from gaming competitions, communication between in-person and online participants, and more.
Why Do Networking Events Matter?
Networking events are crucial to professional success for attendees and organizers alike. They allow professionals to meet and learn from others in their industry.
Networking—especially when done in-person—helps you feel a stronger emotional connection to your work and those in your field. It’s a good way to get excited about what you do and to find new opportunities. This could be for sales, marketing, recruitment, IT development, social good, and more.
Online networking events are effective for meeting people who can contribute to your professional journey. Virtual coffee dates and meet-and-greets enable professionals to meet others from across the country or the globe, without the hassle of travel.
Networking events for event organizers allow them to forge stronger relationships with their partners. They allow them to drive brand awareness, build community, and grow as leaders in their industry.
Who organizes networking events?
Event marketers. Event planners. Event organizers. Whatever name you prefer, they’re in charge of understanding the goals of the event and planning accordingly.
Creating a satisfying networking experience for their industry just might be what separates their brand from their competition.
How to make networking events successful
Event planners must understand their primary goals of the event in order to take the most strategic planning approach.
Once goals and event budget are decided upon, planners can choose the format of the event and the online tools they’ll use to pull all the details together.
As an event planner, you’ll likely want an end-to-end event software to help with website creation, registration, agenda, engagement, measurement and more. By keeping all the essentials in one software, you’ll have more peace of mind that nothing’s falling through the cracks.
It’s also helpful to look at successful events from the past to give you inspiration. Below readers will find the ultimate event networking guide. Use it to create remarkable events that add value and motivate attendees to register for your next event.
12 networking event examples (including hybrid and online events)
- Reimagine events with hybrid solutions: Empower 21
- Create a Wow Experience: Social Media Marketing World by Social Media Examiner
- Online or On-Site, Why Not Both?: Consensus by CoinDesk
- Bridge the gap between online and physical with swag: Snowflake Summit
- Bring on the talent: Evolve Virtual Summit
- Network Gamification: The Revenue Summit by Sales Hacker
- Beyond the Agenda: Under 30 Summit by Forbes
- Mentorship 101: Startup Competition by South Summit
- Integrate Social Media: Elevate by Agency Nation
- Make it Personal: GlueCon by IT Glue
- A Special Platform: Dreamforce by Salesforce
- Help participants plan ahead with clear agendas: Gainsight Pulse
1. EMpower 21
An example of streamed on-demand and in-person-only sessions powered by the Bizzabo Agenda from the Empower Conference.
Empower 21 was one of the first hybrid events of 2021. Unlike previous hybrid events that used a variety of event solutions, Empower 21 one of the first hybrid events ever powered by a single hybrid event platform.
By using Bizzabo, Empower 21 streamlined its registration process for in-person and virtual attendees. Plus, the enhanced integration allowed in-person attendees to network with their virtual counterparts. It created one unified audience across in-person and virtual. Attendees could communicate, interact, and share the same experience.
Key Takeaway: Hybrid event planners and their solution partners are reconceptualizing what events can be.
2. Social Marketing world by social media examiner
Source: Social Media Examiner
The organizers behind Social Media Examiner excel at creating networking events. Their annual conference, Social Media Marketing World, is a noteworthy example. Given that there were over 7,000 attendees, the organizers behind Social Media Examiner enable registrants to connect before they even step foot in the event venue (more on this later). Private LinkedIn groups, Slack channels, and live online meetups facilitate communication opportunities between attendees.
But that’s just the beginning. Once the event begins, there is a bingo networking icebreaker aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. This innovative (and historically impressive) venue cannot be overlooked; it is a “wow” factor that makes it easier for attendees to immerse themselves in the event, and thus forget about any social anxiety they may have when meeting new people.
Key Takeaway: Give them something to talk about. At times the biggest challenge is facilitating the networking experience, whether that’s through choosing an incredible venue or through implementing easy-to-use gamification features. Creating a positive, interactive experience should consistently be a priority of your networking event strategy.
3. Consensus by CoinDesk
With a $30,000 prize on the line and the chance to convene with top blockchain developers, Building Blocks Hackathon at CoinDesk’s Consensus is more than just a competition for engineers. CoinDesk cements Consensus as a networking event by creating an online space for attendees to connect pre, during and post event by encouraging participants to form teams through an event networking app.
Giving attendees an opportunity to coordinate with one another prior to the event resulted in a more rewarding networking experience overall. Perhaps just as importantly, the event itself—a prize competition—motivated attendees to get to know one another prior to the event. As a result, participants felt like it was in their best interests to communicate with others beforehand.
Key Takeaway: Creating an online community can facilitate a better networking experience during the event. If you can, consider adding prizes that will incentivize team-building and communication between attendees.
4. Snowflake summit 2021
Snowflake Summit’s agenda powered by Bizzabo
Snowflake Summit is a virtual networking event that offers more than 60 online sessions with more than 50,000 professionals joining in. Participants learn about the latest in data science, data engineering, and data sharing technologies. Even though the entire event is online, participants will have the opportunity to collaborate and connect with others.
Another way Snowflake Summit 2021 is making things more engaging is by offering more event swag based on the amount of live attendance.
Key Takeaway: You can offer comprehensive learning and deeper connections without requiring travel. Connect virtual engagement with physical rewards to bridge the gap between the two realities.
5. evolve virtual summit
Using Bizzabo, Evolve made online registration easy for organizers and participants.
The Evolve Virtual Summit is an online event that brings together 5,000 attorneys to take away actionable learning for growing their marketing, teams, and firms.
The summit covers a variety of topics designed to help any member of a law team—attorneys, paralegals, office staff, marketing team, and more—develop skills to encourage growth. Not only do the event organizers tailor their session topics well, they bring together esteemed feature speakers.
Marketing Expert & Best-Selling Author Seth Godin, Host of CNBC’s The Profit Marcus Lemonis, best-selling author Michael Mogill and many other acclaimed authors and lawyers will lead the Evolve sessions.
Key Takeaway: Attendees are coming to network—but they need to see return for their investment. If you’re selling tickets for your event, especially a virtual event, you’ll need talented speakers who can offer fresh and actionable insights.
6. The revenue summit by sales hacker
Source: Sales Hacker
Sales Hacker hosts The Revenue Summit, an event for sales and marketing professionals. With over 1,000 attendees and more than 44 speakers, the conference itself is all about bringing enterprise B2B SaaS companies together. However, within the summit Sales Hacker orchestrates a particularly exceptional networking strategy. They call it: Appexchange Demo Jam.
In between sessions, attendees witness a battle of apps à la a live game show. In three minute intervals, attendees demo two competing apps and collectively select a winner. Although Appexchange is not the main event within The Revenue Summit, it does motivate attendees from different tracks to collaborate.
Key Takeaway: People like to contribute and witness the effect of their contribution. An out-of-the-box, collaborative experience doesn’t have the be the focal point of your event, but it certainly adds value to an otherwise traditional conference.
7. Under 30 Summit by Forbes
With over 7,000 attendees, an event village, and a music festival, the organizers behind the Forbes Under 30 Summit pull out all the stops. The Under 30 Summit distinguishes itself by implementing a Day of Service into the weekend-long event. Last year, Forbes partnered with Boston Public Schools to allow participants to mentor local students. This event strategy serves to encourage networking and partnerships amongst attendees and the greater community, while improving brand sentiment.
Key Takeaway: Create opportunities that attendees will want to be motivated to participate in. By tying networking to social work, organizers provide event goers with a unique opportunity to make an impact while building professional connections.
8. Startup Competition by South Summit
Source: South Summit
Hosted in Madrid, South Summit’s Startup Competition gathers over 3,500 startups and more than 50 investors across hundreds of organizations under one roof. In a bid to connect startups and investors, the forum becomes a competition for entrepreneurs to become one of 100 unicorn finalists.
Unlike other aforementioned competition-centered networking events, South Summit organizers differentiate their networking event strategy by implementing one-on-one meetings with the top venture capital firms. This is in addition to a personalized, expert-led masterclass for event goers to perfect their final investor pitch. By connecting attendees with specialists, educational networking becomes key to South Summit’s event success.
Key Takeaway: If you can provide tangible and exclusive networking opportunities, do it. Incorporating an element of accessible exclusivity ensures your event will bring value to attendees, while increasing demand from attendees and sponsors alike.
9. Elevate by Agency Nation
Source: Agency Nation
Elevate is an “unconference” led by Agency Nation. Taking place in Cleveland, it is a two-day event that targets those in the insurance space. Elevate created an online community through their event management software so that attendees can message each other and connect using their LinkedIn profiles.
This exclusive community benefits attendees as they are able to familiarize themselves with other attendees prior to event day. The integration of an online community ensures that registrants foster long-term (and easily accessible) connections, making the in-person experience all the more valuable.
Key Takeaway: Use all tools at your disposal. If your event management software permits, integrate social media accounts to your event website and/or app. Professional social media connections will be particularly useful for attendees in the long run and once the event has ended.
10. GlueCon by IT Glue
Source: IT Glue
Networking environments can be particularly stress-inducing for event goers. Another way to counteract a potentially overwhelming situation? Create uniquely segmented tracks for your attendees. IT Glue’s GlueCon does just that. The 2018 iteration of the conference features four keynote speakers, and eight tailored breakout sessions for their event registrants. Beyond multi-track agendas, the producers of GlueCon 2018 are offering personalized, live solution demos of IT Glue’s IT documentation software to all attendees. By creating a tailored event experience that is supplemented by customized product offerings, organizers ensure GlueCon event goers will benefit from the most valuable connections.
Key Takeaway: Provide personalized solutions in real-time and categorize your agenda into themed tracks. It is a way to connect attendees with people, products, and topics they find compelling while helping calm the anxiety that arises when meeting strangers.
11. Dreamforce by Salesforce
Dreamforce by Salesforce features a few of the aforementioned networking ideas. For instance, the Equality Summit raised over $1 million dollars for workforce equality and featured role-segmented sessions. However, it is their use of personalization and human-touch that truly differentiates Dreamforce from other networking events. Dreamforce attendees are referred to as “Trailblazers,” cementing event registrants as innovators within their respective industries. This simple tactic serves to foster the Dreamforce community by inviting attendees to consider themselves a part of a (very large, over 171,000 person) family.
Moreover, Salesforce created a post-event cookbook, featuring “Trailblazer” recipes that were paired with apps. This quirky, informational offering gave attendees the opportunity to be featured within the event community, and awarded contributing attendees an innovative platform to connect with attendees and Salesforce community members.
Key Takeaway: Create unique and useful ways for your attendees to connect – app-“infused” recipes and nicknames are welcome! These small additions will transform your event from a multi-day experience to an exclusive, professional community.
12. Gainsight Pulse
Gainsight Pulse Agenda powered by Bizzabo
A virtual event, Gainsight Pulse 2021 will offer a virtual hub for customer success professionals to learn and network. With three days of live and streaming content, leaders will develop new ways to build up teams, manage customer success, and grow their careers in product management.
A-list speakers, including Mindy Kaling, Nick Mehta, and François Locoh-Donou, will lead sessions at the Customer Success and Product talent virtual event.
Participants can choose from over 55 sessions, which can be viewed live or on-demand. Because virtual events offer so many sessions, it’s important to invest in a powerful event software solution like Bizzabo that can make a clear agenda for participants.
Key Takeaway: Participants like to plan ahead and may not be able to participate in all online sessions. Make it clear which content and speakers will be most valuable to them and when those sessions will take place. By offering clear information on speakers, sessions, and schedules in advance, participants can better understand how valuable the networking event will be—encouraging more registration and participation.
Planning your next networking event
Effective networking is crucial to your event’s success. Here are the main takeaways recapped before you organize your next great networking event.
- Networking is all about bringing people together, find a memorable way to do it that fits your event strategy.
- Keep in mind that entertainment is a part of networking, but attendees must see value behind it (a return on their investment if you will).
- Optimize all networking opportunities by considering online strategies before, during and after your event. Online communities add an element of exclusivity and motivate attendees to connect.
- Use all available tools at your disposal—location, sponsorships, partnerships, previous attendee mentorship programs—you may have more than you realize at your fingertips. Don’t miss a potentially great opportunity.
- Be creative. Networking is hard, even the thought is overwhelming. Consider ways of facilitating the networking experience in a way that allows your event attendees to get the most value of the resources you’ve provided.
Looking for more modern event ideas and examples? Download the ebook below!