Before we jump into pre-event networking, let’s just reiterate that providing multiple networking opportunities at your virtual events is crucial. It’s one of the most significant reasons why attendees join your events. And while businesses have pretty much perfected how to provide in-person networking opportunities, translating those same possibilities to the virtual landscape was a challenge.
But we made it through. Networking booths, breakout rooms, and gamification helped us connect attendees during virtual events. But does event networking actually start on launch day? Or can you influence audience engagement with prior efforts?
We believe you can. Pre-event networking can help you establish relationships with your audience beforehand, increasing their show rates and encouraging them to engage. You can also get them more excited about your content and help them understand which sessions will be most relevant to their needs.
Pre-Event Networking: Taking Charge of Your Event Success
Event planning has earned its place as an integral marketing channel, with the ROI ratio for events hitting as high as 5:1. And since events offer so much potential, it’s important to take your planning and marketing seriously.
This includes pre-event networking. Take control of your event’s success by engaging your audience beforehand, establishing relationships with them, getting them psyched about your event, and earning their attention.
There’s no room to leave event success up to chance. We need to take charge of relationship building, and of earning our audience’s commitment. We need to accept pre-event networking as a vital part of the event planning process.
5 Tips to Champion Your Pre-Event Networking Strategy
Just as you’d do with your actual event, you can get creative with your pre-event networking strategy. There are different distribution channels you can explore, and various best practices and strategies to consider.
Get your promotional content ready
Digital marketing is driven by content, and pre-event networking is no exception. Before you can start your campaigns, whether they’re on Google Ads, social media, or even email, you need to have content ready. Or at least, a clear strategy for which content to create for distribution.
Here’s a quick checklist for the standard types of content to take care of:
- Details about your keynote speakers
- Insights into your talks
- Any special interactive sessions you have planned
- Handing out any swag? Let your audience know
- Got any competitions planned, with rewards? Make a splash about it
Beyond this standard checklist, you can get creative and tailor your content strategy to features unique to your event. For example, if a certain amount of the ticket revenue will be donated to a special cause, let your attendee know how their participation can make a difference.
And when you’re distributing content, keep networking and engagement in mind. Try to get your audience involved in the conversation – ask them questions, leverage polling, and try to get them talking about your event with their peers.
Leverage social media, both organic and paid
When it comes to pre-networking on social media, you can invest in more organic methods, or follow the paid advertising route. Sometimes, you might want to leverage a combination of both.
To know which channel is best for you, consider your audience’s behavior and your own resources. Which social media platforms is your audience active on? And do you have a solid following on a platform like LinkedIn? These are some considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.
One of the biggest advantages of leveraging social media is the snowball effect. As your attendees engage with you, their friends and followers learn about your event and have the opportunity to join in.
You’re probably familiar with the standard strategies for promoting your events on social media. For example, setting up an ‘event’ on Facebook, and letting your Twitter followers know what’s coming. These standard practices are reliable – that’s why they’re used consistently, and you should consider them too. But what more can you do?
Well. You’re looking to drive engagement, right? So engage! Talk to your audience about the event, let them know what’s coming, and ask them what they’re looking forward to. You can take advantage of LinkedIn and Twitter’s poll features to ask questions and drive further engagement.
Consider email marketing
With email marketing, you can engage and network with your audience 1:1 before the event and drive engagement. Email is a great channel to get creative and provide your attendees with a hyper-personalized experience.
Here are some ways to leverage email marketing to increase audience engagement:
- Set up an automated thank you email. This email will greet your members after they sign up, thanking them for their participation. You can also include a quick overview of your event’s key information, and maybe even provide incentives for attendees to refer their friends.
- Send your attendees reminders at reasonable intervals. It’s important to avoid spamming or over-emailing your list, but gentle reminders can help ensure they keep their schedule free.
- Distributing your ‘essential’ and teaser content. This is the content we discussed earlier – details about the speakers, the sessions, and any special event elements to look forward to. Spread your content distribution out over frequent intervals and gradually build up hype.
Get your Attendees Involved
Pre-event networking with your attendees helps you strengthen relationships and increase their commitment, which is great. But what if you took matters a step further and involved attendees in your outreach efforts?
You can offer your attendees incentives for referring their friends to your event, even if it’s just a tag in a Facebook comment. You can consider offering special discounts, extra swag, or hosting a giveaway as incentives.
Involving your attendees also strengthens their relationship with you, encouraging them to attend on launch day. And of course, it helps expand your reach organically – new users are far more likely to attend your event if they’re referred by a friend.
Work with Your Speakers
It’s common for your speakers to advertise their talks in their own network – you typically won’t need to ask them to. But you can help them expand their internal networking by providing them with content and resources.
Your content team can work closely with your speakers to produce relevant content that they can share in their network, cultivating their followers’ interest in your event. It’s important to make sure the content is authentic to your speakers’ personal brand, so be sure to take their input and follow their direction.
When it comes to pre-event networking, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. The fundamental principles for engaging your audience are the same – connect with them on relevant channels, deliver value, and encourage two-way communication. The means of achieving these goals may vary, but the tenets remain the same.
So next time you’re planning a virtual event, don’t forget that networking starts well before you go live.