Whether you’re a first-time virtual event coordinator, or have run virtual events for your business before, one of the most challenging aspects today is setting up your summit in such a way as to encourage and actually generate real engagement. Because let’s face it, your target audience has had enough boring presentations and Zoom meetings to last multiple lifetimes.
If they show up to your virtual event, it’s because they’re hoping for something different. They’re hoping to come away from your event with a takeaway, something memorable. And while we’d often like to think that when we teach something or tell someone about our brand, that’s the thing they’ll remember most…
It won’t be.
What people remember best are stories and other people, which means if you want your virtual event to be engaging and memorable, you have to create space for networking and opportunities that I like to call Magical Moments.
Those are the instances where two or more people are talking to each other and they create a connection that extends outside of and beyond the confines of your event space. They have a specific question answered or connect with someone that ends up becoming a friend or boss or business partner.
The kind of moment that cannot happen in a pure one-to-many teaching environment.
And yet, in a recent survey of virtual event organizers, over half of them, 50.5%, were not incorporating any kind of dedicated time for networking activity – and no, breaks don’t count when you’re virtual and all of your attendees are at home!
So what can you do to encourage more networking in your virtual event and create opportunities for truly memorable experiences? That was the topic of conversation when I sat down with Vaibhav Gupta, Product Manager for Airmeet, for their Fireside Chat.
Airmeet is a virtual event and online networking platform that I absolutely love and highly recommend. I’ve used it for multiple events, including the Agency Summit that I put on for Agorapulse which featured dozens and dozens of sessions, speakers and sponsors, and nearly 3,000 online attendees. If you want to know more about how to use Airmeet for your next event, or need help determining your overall strategy and best supporting tech stack, we should talk.
Here’s the full recording of our session, and a recap and full transcript follows:
Topic One: With virtual events, how do you replicate the networking element of in-person events?
Having put on virtual events since 2018, and live videos of one kind or another even longer than that, I am very familiar with the power video has to help speakers create connections with viewers. But I noticed in the first virtual event that I organized that since there was no networking opportunity at all, it was just a series of live streamed webinars, my audience wasn’t engaged with the content and definitely weren’t engaged with each other.
So I set out on a journey to explore what platforms and options were available to brands and virtual event organizers like myself to offer attendees real networking opportunities. To have a successful virtual event, you need to create other kinds of opportunities where the individual can connect with and talk to another individual more than just a quick chat or a profile follow.
Each time that I organized a new virtual event… and I’ve now personally managed dozens of summits and online conferences… I tested new ways to offer online versions of table talks, networking breaks, discussions and serendipitous meetings.
Because it’s in those spaces between sessions where magical moments can happen. And it’s those moments that your attendees are going to remember and associate with your virtual events. And if they’re associating a positive experience in their mind with your event, that means they’re also associating that positive experience with you and your brand.
Today, platforms like Airmeet make it extremely easy to offer attendees networking options!
- Speed Networking
- Table Talks
- Cocktail Parties
- Breakout Sessions
- Event Chat
- Session Chat
- Dedicated Profiles
- Private Meetings
Learn more about these different networking activities and, specifically, how to set them up using Airmeet.
Topic Two: How do you structure a virtual event agenda to encourage networking?
Virtual Speed Networking is a feature that platforms like Airmeet have incorporated which I love, and that’s always what I schedule as the very first dedicated session time in the morning of my virtual events, and what I recommend to my virtual event clients in their VIP Strategy Day.
Because most of the people attending your events don’t know each other.
The speakers might be familiar with each other. And some attendees might know each other or some of the speakers, but if you have hundreds or even thousands of attendees at your next event, most of them will be complete strangers.
To facilitate getting more people introduced to each other, we use speed networking, where we’ve got 30 minutes total blocked off. That’s the only activity going on at that moment in the event. Attendees enter the lounge, click on speed networking, and are paired up with one other attendee in a video call within the event environment. It can be a random pairing or you have the option, if it makes sense for your event, to pair different kinds of attendees up with other kinds, such as vendors and suppliers.
You set it up so that every five minutes attendees are automatically switched and paired up with someone else, and you can give them prompts on what to ask or say to each other to start building rapport and getting to know more people. And if it’s successful, attendees will now know five or six other people before they’ve even gone into a session.
As a result, later, when attendees are in a keynote or breakout session, they will be more likely to see other attendees they’ve met and recognize, and a little more inclined to respond to questions and comments, making the entire event more engaged and active.
After a few teaching sessions and breaks, that’s when it’s time to have table talks.
Again, platforms like Airmeet already have this capability so from a technical perspective, all you have to do is set it up. But the timing is important! Attendees can see who, if anyone, is already sitting at a particular table. If they see some people they know, maybe just a little bit, they’ll be just an inch more comfortable than they were a couple of hours ago and more inclined to join in.
Remember, your job as a virtual event organizer is to simply create the space for interesting and compelling things to happen – attendees will do the rest! Just make it easy for them and be aware of some basic truths about human beings so that you set yourself, and everyone else, up for success.
Topic Three: How do you keep your community buzzing between virtual events?
One of the easiest things you can do before your next event, even if it’s just a week from now, is to create an online community for attendees to join. That could be a:
- Facebook Group
- LinkedIn Group
- Discord Server
- Slack Channel
Or one of a multitude of other options, most of which are free.
Then, as folks sign up for your event, invite them into the community where they’ll get to know each other a little bit, see more information from you, have a space to talk about or ask questions regarding your event, and be primed to hear about events and activities you have coming in the future.
Once you have a community in place, you can also use it to get people excited about your event and, in particular, the speakers you’ve lined up, by giving that community exclusive access to the speakers. You can invite the speakers to join the community (if they’re willing) and schedule 15 minute live interviews with the speakers to let attendees meet them and ask a few questions in advance.
When the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference shifted to a virtual format, this was one of the ways they got their attendees excited about upcoming sessions and I helped remote produce one of their speaker Q&A sessions.
And again, when you host a live video session within your community, you’re creating more opportunities for your attendees to meet each other and connect! When they show up for your virtual event, they may see and recognize other attendees from past live Q&A sessions and be more apt to engage with them, and your event, as a result.
Topic Four: How do you hype your virtual event lounge and booths?
In your social media posts, emails, and in your community if you’ve created one, you can share details with your attendees on how your event is going to be structured and what they can expect. If there are going to be booths, networking opportunities like a lounge, and those kinds of elements, you should definitely explain those in advance.
Additionally, with a platform like Airmeet, you can completely customize the Venue. That’s the event space that the attendee sees when they first log in, and it’s an opportunity for you to provide additional direction and information, similar to how an in person event might hang signs and put up kiosks to inform attendees as they first walk in.
For Agency Summit, I worked with my design team to create a graphic that had the look and feel of an event venue in Paris, where Agorapulse is based. I also added graphics and clickable text so that it was easy to see how to get to sessions or the lounge. And I embedded a video that explained through illustration and voiceover how the day was scheduled and where to find everything.
And in so doing, we were able to encourage and highlight where to go to learn more about our sponsors and vendors, and where to go to network with other attendees.
This is an important point, because when an attendee is at virtual events, it’s very easy for them to participate passively. They can have your event open in a tab of their browser while they’re simultaneously reading emails or working on another project, or even watching TV!
As event organizers, we want to capture their attention and turn them from passive participants into active participants. So bear that mind when you are building your schedule, of course, but also when you’re creating the environment in which your event is taking place. From the venue to the agenda to everything that’s happening at every moment, make sure it’s structured and planned so that your attendees are as engaged as possible.
Topic Five: How do you incentivize speed networking participation at virtual events? How do you use gamification?
When you’re trying to overcome many people’s natural hesitation to participate in voluntary activities, one smart tactic is to incentivize or employ gamification to the activities.
Let me give you an example.
At in person events I’ve attended in the past, when walking into a networking event, I’d be handed a Networking Bingo card that was filled with activities relevant to the audience rather than letters and numbers. Instead of ‘B28’ there’d be something like, “Hosts A Podcast” or “Runs Facebook Ads.” Now of course you’d want to tailor these activities or interests to your event and audience but the idea is to give attendees an activity and prompt for networking.
It works the same at virtual events. You can provide these cards as a PDF to attendees in advance and they can fill them out at home and upload a picture of their completed cards to be entered to win prizes!
Another easy example is to let your attendees know that you’re monitoring event Twitter mentions and hashtag usage and will be posting leaderboards for those attendees who are most active and engaged on Twitter. You can encourage them to share quotes from sessions and facts about the people they’re meeting in their networking activities.
One other tip here is to use Google Slides, which you can change the page format to be whatever size you’d like, include all kinds of information about your event, including clickable links, and export it as a PDF Guidebook for your entire event.
Topic Six: Should networking be structured and virtual tables labeled at virtual events?
Data from Airmeet’s own platform usage showed conclusively that the events which utilized structured agendas with dedicated networking times, and labeled their table talks, had higher rates of engagement of retention.
What does that mean?
First, as we discussed earlier, how you set up your event agenda is up to you. You can choose to start the day with keynotes and breakout sessions, and run live teaching sessions all day long, or you can choose to schedule dedicated time for networking.
Not only do I recommend, and the data supports, having dedicated time for networking, it is smart to think about the kinds of networking spaces you’re creating and when it’s best to do them. Give attendees time to meet individuals early on, or even before your event, and have a more loose, party-like atmosphere later on.
But the other element we touched on earlier was table talks. These are the kinds of sessions at virtual events where, instead of being just one speaker on camera, it’s more like a group video call where whomever is at the table or in the room, joins the video call and everyone can talk to each other.
Think of them like Zoom calls that take place within the virtual event space.
While it’s possible to have breakout sessions within a regular speaking presentation, where the attendees all get shuttled off into small groups, Table Talks are a little different. Visually, they’re usually presented on screen as two dimensional tables and chairs, with little avatars representing actual attendees if there are any currently participating in a table.
If the tables are labeled with specific topics, that gives those at the table an agreed upon discussion topic and ensures that other people interested in that topic will consider joining the table.
I also recommend seeding these tables with hosts or moderators. These will be volunteers who are knowledgable about the topic and are there to moderate and, initially, show attendees that there’s someone already at the table and they won’t be the first one joining. That’s an important psychological nudge.
You can set all of that up in advance using Airmeet, and you can also allow attendees to start their own tables, which is nice, particularly when you have speakers who might want to take advantage and give their fans a place to meet them after their talk and ask more questions.
Virtual events that want their attendees to walk away from their event and still be buzzing about it hours, even days later, will make sure that all of these networking elements have been incorporated.
If all of this feels like a lot to keep in mind, we should have a quick call about your next event and explore how else I can help you. I regularly work with other brands and help them create a successful strategy for their event, and then map out of the details so that they’re workable and covered. That all happens in a single day or afternoon as a VIP Strategy Day! Let’s talk.
Full Transcript[00:00:00] Vaibhav Gupta: Welcome everyone to this session. We are super excited to talk about networking at virtual events. I am Vaibhav Gupta a product manager at Airmeet and with me, I have Mike who is a podcaster and award winning blogger speaker, author, head of strategic partnerships at Agorapulse. He hosted Agorapulse Agency Summit on Airmeet which had over 3000 participants, 50 speakers, 50 brand partners at about 36 breakout sessions. So we are today going to hear it from the virtual events expert. And let me just play a quick video, where Mike had something to say about the Airmeet virtual events experience. Let’s start with that. [00:00:44] Mike Allton: I’ve been going to live in-person events for five or six years. And I know from experience that what our target audience gets the most out of what they benefit the most out of, isn’t the content in the sessions. It’s just not, it’s the conversations that happen outside those sessions in the hallways, sitting down at meals, sitting down and table talks, interviews that happen, impromptu, that sort of thing. Being able to meet and talk to speakers, being able to ask questions. It’s those kinds of activities that people actually have, what we call a magical moment. Something will happen, a relationship will form a question will get answered.
We wanted to create more magical moments. We wanted to take more opportunities for people to come away from our events, feeling like, wow, that was amazing, right? Maybe it’s because they met somebody that had nothing to do with the speakers that I lined up, but still, if they meet somebody, whether it’s a client or a friend or a colleague that, you know, creates this longterm relationship, they’re always going to remember that it was at agency summit by Agorapulse that that happened. That was what we wanted to create. And I really enjoyed the fact that we could offer our attendees a lounge, and they could go into the lounge and they could jump into speed networking and meet some folks. And they could jump into a table, either just an open table or one devoted to a particular topic and have some conversations. [00:02:24] Vaibhav Gupta: All right. So, today let’s Talk about in this session the best practices for inserting and programming, networking in your virtual events and how Airmeet features can facilitate your networking accurate. And then as a third thing, we’ll also talk about some things that maybe today you’re not able to do on Airmeet.
And we’ll take that as a feedback and come with better features next time. So let me start with the first question for. Mike and this posting the question. And let me show this question on stage. Meanwhile all of you please feel free to post your questions on the QA tab and any ideas also, you can post ideas on QA.
Let’s get a post on your ideas and we’ll bring the best ideas on stage. Right? Let’s do this first question, Mike, with virtual events, some of the things that have been difficult for a lot of organizers is figuring out how to replicate the networking element of the in-person events. How do you do that in person events?
Right. So what were your challenges and how did you overcome. [00:03:32] Mike Allton: Yeah. So first of all, hello everyone. Thank you so much for having me. This is a real pleasure. Airmeet is one of my favorite platforms. So I love getting to meet all of you guys behind the scenes at Airmeet, the community. And so definitely if you’ve got questions that we’re not touching on, throw them in the chat we’re watching, we’ll pay attention.
I wanted to share how I got started in virtual events, because this really speaks to this particular question. The first real, truly virtual event that I ran was a few years ago, 2018. And it was a series of live interviews and presentations where I tapped specific ambassadors of Agorapulse, Agorapulse is a social media management tool.
So I was tapping social media. Influencers people who teach social media on social media, very meta. And at the time we were using a different platform and it was really just a series of webinars. That’s really what it was. They were disconnected. You couldn’t even register for all of them. I had 16 of them and you had to register for each individual one, if you want to do attend all 16, they were spread out over, I think, three weeks at the time.
And there was no networking at all. You just showed up, you could leave comments. I think I could view comments, but you really weren’t meeting anybody else. It was just you passively listening to whatever speaker I picked and hopefully learning something and not really engaging with the other attendees.
So. Fast forward over the next few years, creating that kind of event experience became a big part of my role at Agorapulse, but I stopped using that kind of platform. It was just a series of standalone webinars and I started exploring what else was out there. I come from a live video background. I’ve been doing live video for gosh, 10 years now, starting with Google plus Hangouts on air.
And so I know the importance of having interactions with the audience. I know, for instance, if I’m speaking and I see shade is in the comments and she’s asking questions. And I say, Hey Shade, that’s a great question. Let me answer that for you. She’s gonna feel not to be presumptuous, but she’s going to feel a little special for being called out.
Right. I’m I’m almost creating that personal interaction between her and I, but I can only do that if I’m the speaker. So. To have a successful virtual event, you need to create other kinds of opportunities where the individual can connect with and talk to another individual more than just a quick chat or a profile follow.
So that’s what I sort of built into the events that I was creating. I was looking for ways to do. Table talks. I was looking for ways to do this kind of hallway meetings that I talked about in that video, because like I said, I come from not only a live video background, but I’ve been to many, many real life in-person conferences.
And I know from personal experience, the things that I remember about those conferences. Aren’t the session that I went to. Right. Aren’t you know, some tip that I heard about Instagram hashtag usage. That’s not what I remember about social media marketing world 2016. What I remember is meeting Emeric Ernoult who was the CEO of Agorapulse, who eventually became my boss.
He didn’t hire me that day. It was two years later. Right. But that was the kind of magical moment that happened for me in 2016 and fast forward two years. Became an employee of that particular company. And there’s all kinds of other magical moments that have happened for me personally, that I associate in my mind with a specific event, which means I’m associating that positive experience with the brand that put on the event.
So that’s, what’s changed for me. And that’s, what’s changed in the virtual events industry because platforms like Airmeet facilitate and allow those kinds of networking opportunities to take place. [00:07:25] Vaibhav Gupta: Right. Right. Thanks. Thanks Mike, for sharing this amazing story back from lake come within five years how we have come a long way in these virtual events.
Right. So you, you mentioned how People remember the hallway conversations and people they met during the breaks. How do you replicate that in virtual events? Right? What, what kind of agenda would you say? Let me just pull this question on the stage. So what you consider a healthy mix of content sessions versus networking sessions.
And let me also add breaks, right? Should networking sessions and breaks with the same thing or. [00:08:08] Mike Allton: Yeah. So I’ll start with the last question. First networking breaks are not the same thing anymore. They’re totally different. You know, this is something we were talking about yesterday, you know, before this session, if I’m at a real in life event.
Like social media marketing world in San Diego, I can come out of a session. I can go into the networking Plaza. I can grab a coffee and I’m surrounded by hundreds of other people. If I go downstairs right now and I grab a coffee, I there’s nobody else here. I’m alone in the house. So there’s no networking.
That’s going to go happen when I refill this mug. But when I’m in a real life event that networking can, and often does happen in that kind of environment. You have to acknowledge that fact there are differences today that we cannot get around between real and virtual events and that, and that’s one of them.
If I need an actual break, I’m not gonna see anybody on my break. I need to go to the bathroom, get a drink, walk the dog, step outside, get some, or those kinds of things. So breaks are important. In fact, I do encourage virtual event organizers to schedule pure breaks and even encourage. Get up, go outside, get a breath of fresh air, take 10 minutes and step away from your computer.
So we don’t have so much of that blue light fatigue going on throughout the day. That’s different from networking because networking has to be in this seat. I have to be looking at you. I have to be typing or talking. Camera on the mic on all those things have to be happening for me to successfully network in virtual events, which means to go to the first part of the question, you absolutely must schedule networking time throughout the day.
And so what I’ve been doing recently, because platforms like you have speed networking, which I adore, I schedule that first, most of the people attending each of your, you know, are having virtual events or you’re going to virtual events next year. Most of the people attending your events don’t know each other.
Yeah. The speakers might be familiar with each other. Some people are going to know you, right. But there’s 58 people in this session today. I’m imagining most of you don’t know each other in this session. If I wanted you to know each other, if I wanted you to get to know each other, I’d have started with a speed networking, where I’ve got 30 minutes, total blocked off. That’s the only thing going on at that moment in the network, in the event day. And I’ve set it up so that like every five minutes you’re bouncing to the next person. I may give you some specific questions to prompt say, Hey, where you from? What do you do? Why are you here?
What are you looking forward to the most? What speaker are you hoping to learn from? You know, just to get the ball rolling. And then you’ve got five minutes to get to know one other person. And then you’ll go to the next person, the next person. And if it’s successful, you’ll know, five or six people now, before you’ve even gone into a session.
So when you come into this session and you see Ashani talking and Winnie’s here and Shade’s here, right? These are people that, wow, I just talked to you a moment ago, right? I know you’re here from Ontario or Hungary or wherever it is that you’re here from. I know that you’re doing this, that, and the next thing and why you’re here and.
Our brains are going to associate that familiarity pay a little more attention to when that person that we talked to ask a question or makes a comment, that sort of thing, so that it helps to build rapport that helps to build that networking that can potentially happen. Then you create throughout the day, additional time slots for things like table talks and the lounge and so on.
And if you’ve already met. And maybe you attended a keynote or some other breakout sessions. Maybe there was even some breakout capability within the session, right? Where we break out into different tables, right. After a short presentation, you’re going to see those same people and you’re gonna meet. So then let’s say it’s middle of the day and I’ve got a time set aside for table talks and we go into the lounge and we see the tables.
And I, as an attendee, I’m looking around, I see some topics that I’m interested in and I see some people I already met. I see some people I know, maybe just a little bit, I mean, maybe I’ve, I’ve known them for a total of 90 minutes, but that’s better than total strangers. So then. At that table and I’m just an inch more comfortable than I was a couple of hours ago.
And sometimes that I’ll take, that’s all it takes. It’s just a little bit of an icebreaker. If you will, to allow me as a self-professed introvert, to be a little more comfortable sitting down at a table of really total strangers and maybe sharing my opinion, maybe answering your question. ’cause one of the fun things that’ll happen at events as a result of creating these opportunities is that some people will ask questions and other people will answer those questions.
It’s just basic conversation. Right? Right. But you don’t know going into it, what’s going to happen. You don’t know going into it, what questions you’re going to have, what questions other people are going to have. And as a result, when those things happen, you may meet somebody that you knew. Or that needs you, right?
You may sit down on a table and someone’s are sharing their background and maybe they’ve just opened a business. That’s very similar to yours and maybe they’re hitting a wall. Of challenges and issues and questions. And you you’re a few years further along in that similar journey. And you can be like, you know what?
I had that same problem a couple of years ago, and I did these three things. Maybe you’re not even an expert, right. But you’ve shared a little bit more about yourself in a table with some other people around you. And that creates opportunities for them to look at you. As, as first an expert in some way, you’ve got some experience that you want.
Yeah, but it also allows other people to see you in a very human way, see you in a helpful way. And that helps build rapport that helps build trust. And we just don’t know what’s going to happen after that. That might be the last time you talked to those people that might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As I say, in Casa Blanca, where you might go on to talk to that person every day for years, some of my best friends today are people I’ve met at conferences and virtual events. Oh, wow. You know, the initial meeting took place in a session in a table talk, you know, in the hallway, somebody introduced me. There’s a brilliant speech.
In the marketing industry, his name is Marcus Sheridan. He wrote the book you asked, they ask you answer. He’s just a genius when it comes to content marketing’s keynote speaker and so on. And I was attending his session and, and, and so on. And after the session standing out in the hallway with him and somebody else, and that’s somebody else introduced.
To him. Hey, this is my Caldon Marcus. You need to meet Mike. It was, it was an amazing moment and you know, that we’re friends, it’s just those kinds of things can happen virtually as well as in real life. But it’s incumbent on the event organizer. To create that space in that those virtual events. [00:15:30] Vaibhav Gupta: So create that space is create that space early on in your event that will help attendees create a forum amongst themselves.And they’ll be glued to the event. And maybe the next big startup idea might come out of, or the best friendships might come on up your event next time. Right. So let’s, let’s quickly just do a poll. Let’s see, let’s see what people think about this. So. Do you see this pole? Did you build networking time into your event?Let’s let’s get the answers coming in. [00:16:13] Mike Allton: Okay. Real time results. I can see the charts moving. That’s awesome. [00:16:21] Vaibhav Gupta: Okay. Great. So most of us are already doing it to one. So let’s keep doing this. This is I think the most obvious trick out of the sleeve today. Let’s now. Quickly, this is one of the questions from the attendees. So you know how the the registration forms for the events have this question that you have for the speaker.
And you always pose that question and think about whether my speakers answer my question. So here it is, this is one of the questions from. The attendees for what are your best networking tips and tricks to keep your community’s buzzing and build anticipation between the everyday virtual events. What are your best practices to make the Airmeet lounge and the booths hot commodity Mike. [00:17:07] Mike Allton: So one of the easy things you guys can do before your next virtual event, if you’ve got time, I mean, in this could be as little as a week in advance of your next event is to create a community outside of the event, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, a discord server, slack channel, whatever you want to do. It doesn’t really matter the platform, but build a platform and community for your attendees.
And then as people are signing up, invite them into the community. Now this is going to do two things. The long-term view is now we’ve got a community around our event that we can use after the event for the next event and for the next event, the next event and so on. So we did this at Agorapulse. We built social pulse community in March of last year, just when the pandemic was starting March of 2020, and we’ve started using it for this partial purpose, right.
To build community for future events and live videos and summits and webinars and things that we’re doing. But the real purpose, the initial purpose, the short-term purpose is to create a space for your attendees to meet other attendees before the event. You got a hundred people coming to your event next week.
And most of them are in a Facebook group. They’re going to see each other. They’re going to see your posts. They’re going to see each other’s posts. Somebody asks a question, Hey, how do I get into the event? Boom, 16 people answer. Now. They’ve all met all those people, the other, not in depth conversations, but again, that repetition, that name recognition that’s going to happen as a result of them seeing my name in a Facebook group.
When they see my name sitting at a networking table inside of Airmeet on the day of your actual event. That’s going to help their brain and elicit a little more oxytocin, a little more that happy brain chemicals says, oh, I know that person. I’m a little less uncomfortable jumping into that table and talking to them.
So that’s the first thing you can do. Very basic, very easy. And you really, you don’t have to do a whole lot inside of that community environment in the community, posting an update now, and then that’s like bare minimum and that’s super easy, very low effort. If you want to take it to the next. Have some of your key speakers do live interviews inside the community.
This is where it’s helpful to choose Facebook because all of that feature and functionality is already built in. I can use StreamYard or Ecamm and I can live stream and interview pretty much like what we’re doing right now with. Speaker into the Facebook group. Hey, we’ve got Jay Baer. Who’s going to keynote our live event next month.
But for you guys, we’re going to give you a special treat. We’re going to have him for 15 minutes, live in the community to do a quick Q and a about what he’s going to talk about and give you a chance to answer, you know, ask some of your questions and maybe you’ll ask a question that he’ll get to, but maybe we won’t get to your question.
During the live event in a month. So show up and again, by showing up for the speaker, not only are they getting excited about your event and they’re getting excited about the speaker, they get to know Jay and they see his plaid suit and all the wonderful things that Jay Baer represents. They meet each other while they’re there in the conversation, in the chat, in the discussion they get, they, they, they see, oh, Eric is asking really smart questions.
I might want to connect with Eric. I might want to follow him or connect with him on Facebook or at least, you know, if I see Eric sitting at a table and the networking lounge, I’m going to sit at Eric’s table. Cause I know he’s going to ask something super smart that I’m going to learn from. Right. Cause some people, again, they don’t want to ask the questions. They don’t want, they don’t they’ve they’re afraid of looking. Many of us had that, that kind of a similar feel. So we kind of let other people ask the right questions for us and that’s fine. So that’s one of the big things that I would do is have that kind of community upfront to help build buzz.
I don’t know. Was there anything else, any other parts of the question, the, [00:21:03] Vaibhav Gupta: you, you brought that a very interesting point that you scream that live on your Facebook group as well. And I’ve seen a lot. Podcasters and speakers, influencers rebuilt, repurposing this content and sharing that as a podcast later on.
Even like Eric had a question like a whole, like his thoughts around hosting short podcast, interview sessions and with speakers to hype their sessions. Right? [00:21:30] Mike Allton: Yeah, absolutely. No, no. I’ve just remembered. The other part of that question was how do we make the lounge? And booths hot commodities. Yeah. You can certainly hype them up in advance.
In fact, I would strongly recommend that you’re and we went talk about this more later, but making sure that your attendees know there’s a lounge, they know there’s booths and they’re told how to use an access, those things. So like for agency summit, that was the big event that I put on with Airmeet in Q2 last year.
We’ll do it again in Q2 next. Specifically from marketing agencies, you know, so many of you in the audience is probably not for you, but what we loved about the Airmeet platform was that we were able to totally customize the venue so that when people came into our. For the first time. And our company is based out of Paris, which is fun.
So I had my team create a venue graphic with windows and through the windows. It was as though you were looking at the Eiffel tower and the beautiful Parisian landscape, and we had, you know, a TV in the graphic. So I was able to put a video on the TV and this was a welcoming video for all the attendees that played automatically.
And it showed. Told them, here’s the lounge. Here’s where you go to meet people. Here’s where the sessions are. Here’s where the exhibitors are, where you can find out more in a very low pressure, no sales environment about all kinds of tools that can help you. So that helped my partners, right. Who were showing up, hoping to meet new people.
So we gave them that we walked them through. Everything. And I had our head of customer success crystal with our beautiful Parisian accent, do a voiceover of the video. Right? So again, in the, and it was French music. So I really leaned in hard to creating an experience, even in that particular little detail.
Right. It was, it was part of the experience. So people walking in, I mean, they know they’re sitting in their office at home and they don’t want to be. They would much rather be in Paris, but if I can do a little bit more to ease that comfort right. To make them focused. I love that you mentioned podcasts know you said it was Eric or somebody else, but one of the challenges with creating podcasts content is differentiating between passive and active listeners.
If I open up apple podcasts on my phone, I can choose any podcasts I want. I can turn it on and it’s going, gonna start playing. Do I have to pay attention to it? It can be playing in my ear and I can be typing up an email or looking at my TV or eating a snack or doing all these other things. And it’s just playing in the background and I may or may not be paying attention to it.
And as an event organizer, I know we’re kind of getting off a little bit, but I’ll just finish this point as an event organizer, we have to realize that we’re competing with everything else that’s going around each intended. Every moment of every day, my TV is on right now. It’s playing just a background image, but my TV is technically on right now.
It could be on programming. I could be streaming Netflix or CNN or something. And watching that instead of watching the live event by phones got notifications going off, my team is slacking me. I could be working on. A project that’s due tomorrow. And I don’t want to put it off until tonight. So I’m thinking, oh, I can multitask rides session.
It’s okay. So I’m just going to work on this document. We don’t want that as event organizers, we want to capture their attention. So bear that mind when you are building your schedule, of course, but also when you’re creating the environment in the environment include. The venue, graphics and everything, but also everything that’s happening at every moment, make sure it’s structured, make sure it’s planned so that you are making sure that your attendees are as engaged as possible.Great, [00:25:30] Vaibhav Gupta: great answer, Mike. Thank you so much. We are running a little short on time. I do want to take questions from the audience and I see this as a perfect second. Just very smartly promote the features as well. So Amanda here is asking that one of the biggest issues that they have faced as a virtual events host is that they’re not many incentives to like make people join the speed networking session.
Right. People join only if they’re interested. And the funny thing is the answer to this question lies in another question posted by. I’m thinking of using gamification for the first 15 minutes in our networking lounge before attendees enter our session. Are there any best practices you would recommend Mike? [00:26:17] Mike Allton: Yeah, so I love these questions and again, this is where it helps to have attended events in the past, because if you’re paying attention, you will learn, what’s working, what’s not working and you will take from that. And it doesn’t matter if they’re real life or virtual, here’s the things. I’ve attended real life events in the past where they use networking bingo, as a technique to game-ify networking with other people.
So here’s how that works. You walk into the networking venue. In this case in real life, it was the, the, the USS midway and aircraft carrier in San Diego. You walk in and they hand you a card and on the card are boxes. Bingo boxes. If you’re familiar with that game, like in regular, You’ve got letters, numbers, and people call out, you know, be 28.And then you do that well on a networking bingo card, you have boxes like runs a podcast, works from home, runs, Facebook ads, you know what? And obviously you come up with boxes and topics and categories that make sense for your target audience and you create that. Can you tell people, Hey, walk around, ask people, introduce yourself, you know, and, and have them sign their name on these boxes.
And at the end of the night, you know, the people that complete their cars there’ll be entered to win prizes. Okay. You S you, you won’t have a hundred percent participation and that is okay, but this will move some people out of their comfort zone and the people who love to do this kind of stuff, don’t go all in.I mean, they’re all those kinds of people, right? Those extroverts. Oh yeah. Give me five cards. I’m going to fill them all. Then you’ll have those, but there’ll be people like myself are a little more introverted. That might be a little more inclined to go talk to total strangers. If I’ve got a card that, that provides me the in for the conversation.Yeah. So how do I do this? On a virtual stage? I created a PDF event, guidebook that I emailed to every attendee and I made it available to every attendee prior to the event. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. And I base it on the real life books that I was getting at these conferences that I was attending.
It had of information about every speaker, every session maps of how to get around and. Information of course, about the venue and the brand that was putting it on in this case, it was social media examiner, and those kinds of networking things either went so far as, because I use Google. For these years, you’re a little bit of a technical tip.Everybody is good with sheets to create it. Cause you can go into Google sheets and you can adjust it to be a eight and a half by 11 standard format. And you can save it as a PDF and you can create clickable spaces. So you could create a link to the Airmeet session, a link to the specific parts of the session.
So you can actually create a virtual map and I’ve put in there a networking bingo card. And I said, Hey, show up at the speed network. And see it, the people you meet, check off any of these boxes. And at the end of the night, people who complete their speed networking cards and I, we have the Facebook community.
So I said, Hey, just screenshot it and comment on this particular post in the Facebook community. So I know that you did it and the people that did it, they were entered to win things like your free year of Agorapulse, which is worth $2,000 or an iPad, or, you know, something else of real, tangible value.
And a worse people are more inclined. You don’t know how many more people, but you know, that people are going in the speed networking and you know, some people are more inclined because they do it. [00:29:56] Vaibhav Gupta: This is such an awesome idea. So let me float this every community let’s do this. Why don’t you use leaderboard and speed networking sessions in your next.
Do the bingo thing, if bingo is really, really successful in your next virtual events, we’ll build bingo into the leader for it. How about that? [00:30:15] Mike Allton: There you go. [00:30:16] Vaibhav Gupta: Right? Okay. I don’t know how much time do we have, Ishani can we continue and take one more? [00:30:24] Mike Allton: But yeah, that gamification angle is super important. I’ll say, you know, we did the same thing with tweets because we want people, again, we’re a social media company.
We want people sharing the social, sharing the Twitter specifically about our events. So we monitor it. We use a tool called metric tool to monitor hashtags. Right? How many posts has, you know, Or Kabir shared with our hashtag, which tweets got the most engagement. And we would do a leader board and I would post in the Facebook group every couple hours.
Hey, shade’s winning, she’s got 10 tweets. Everybody else has got five or less. If you want to catch her, start tweeting out those sessions. It works every time. [00:31:04] Vaibhav Gupta: And definitely our, we did as shown the leaderboard events at the votes of hiring easements attendees. Crazy. Okay. Most of the questions that I see in the QA are around how to get people to tables, how to get people to network more and more.
I think bingo is one strategy that we can take away from today’s event. Let me take this one question from Linda with. Talks about understanding that audience will play a part in this. You see more success with unstructured networking, they just opening the lounge with no direction or theme or structured like labeled tables, possibly with facilitators.
And just to add one data point from from any team I was just yesterday looking at. What kind of tables, what kind of events get the highest joint rates? Right. And I can say out front the tables, which have a topic which have a name, they do much, much better. I won’t allow much better, much, much better than a table.Number one, they will number 10. Right? What do you think. [00:32:10] Mike Allton: Yeah. For all of you guys. I told them yesterday, I want that data. I want to know. Cause I, I have personally felt the exact same way, but it’s my feeling is anecdotal, right? I don’t have platform data that says 60% of virtual events that have labels on their tables.
You know, I want that data. So I totally agree. And in fact, that’s, that’s exactly what I started with. You know, when I have the lounge capability, which I love, I go in and I predetermined, I do two things. I predetermined a core set of tables. And again, this is very topical and related to my industry.
So there’ll be like live streaming, Facebook ads, and so on. You guys you’ll you’ll have your own topics. But then the second thing that I do is I find in advance a table host, this isn’t a speaker per se, this isn’t somebody who’s got to have prepared presentation material, but they’re there as a moderator.
They’re there to keep the conversation going from a, you know, an ongoing perspective, but they’re also there to have some. Already sitting at that table, because again, remember your audience perspective, your attendee comes in, they see the lounge, they see the map of tables, 6, 8, 10 hour, many tables. You already have predefined.They’re looking at the topics and they’re looking at how many people are sitting at each table and they’re not going to want to be the first person to see. At a table. It happens in real life because this, this table talk concept is not new. We’ve been doing it for years. I said, I mentioned, I mentioned that I met my current boss at an event 2016.
I met him at a table. I knew one other person at this event of 3000 people. I knew one other person, her name was peg. You in the social media world, you know, peg. And I was literally following her like a puppy and we went to lunch and we’d grabbed the lunch. I’m just going wherever you want peg. And she looks across the big networking Plaza and the San Diego convention center.
And she saw a table with a flag for international people and one dude sitting at this table by himself. And so she said, let’s go sit with him. And it was Emeric. She knew him. But I didn’t. And that’s what created that conversation now Emeric is a super brave, confident in himself, French guy who had no trouble sitting at a table by himself, but other people aren’t going to want to do that.
So I seed the tables with hosts. These are people who have a real passion and interest in the topic. Again, they’re not expected to present any material. I just ask them, Hey, can you sit here for half an hour and just facilitate the conversation? And I often put their names. On the table, you know, Facebook ads hosted by Amanda Robinson.And I may even offer it to some brands like Ecamm, I might say, Hey, Ecamm, why don’t you host the live. Tables live video hosted by Ecamm. So it’s a little additional branding opportunity and of course they can sit there and answer questions. So I love tables for that PR perspective. And I love this new feature that you guys opened up, which allows if the organizer wants an individual to create their own.
Yeah. You know, I, as an introvert, I’m not going to do that, but I know from experience, there are speakers. There are influencers who will appreciate being able to have their own table at virtual events, and they have fans in the audience where new fans that just met them today. Yeah. And this actually saves you a lot of time, because again, my personal experience I’d have people come to me and say, Hey Mike, after my session, can I have a table?
So I’ve got to field the question. I’ve got to think about it. And then assuming the answer is, yes, I have to go make the table, which I did right Yhennifer Mendes had a beautiful session on community in our agency’s summit. And that she wanted to continue the conversation afterwards, which was great, but I had to go create that table as the event organizer and stop, whatever else I was doing now she can do it on her own well. [00:36:15] Vaibhav Gupta: Oh yeah. We are hoping, you know, some of these what do you call it? Like extroverts. People who are really enthusiastic. Meeting other people, you know, at the next blockchain event, I’m going to go and just create a table, say I’m investing in Bitcoin, that somebody would be right. And then I’m hoping that other people would join my table.
Right. And that’s going to be nice. Okay. I think we’ll have to wrap up the session, but Mike it’s been a great conversation about virtual events, such amazing insights, and I’m sure that the Airmeet community is totally going to use some of these steps in. Please give some loves and claps for Mike. It was great to have you, Mike. Thank you. [00:36:57] Mike Allton: And if you all have more questions for me about virtual events, hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m always happy to answer questions. I was just saying I’m an ambivert. I love talking about the things that I’m passionate about and that I know something about virtual events is one of those things. So this is awesome. [00:37:12] Vaibhav Gupta: All right. So we’re going to end the session folks. You can join us back in the lounge. We’ll be at the tables and I hope more of my teammates are going to join all of you, which is let’s meet on tables and discuss ideas. Maybe the next big idea comes out of this event. All right. Bye-bye. Thanks everyone.