Do you go just to watch a presentation or a speaker? Sure. Maybe. But you can do that at home these days on your laptop or phone.
You might go for the food, the cool booths and to walk around to check out some of the new products.
But we all know, the best part of going to any conference or event are the hallway conversations. It’s who you can meet spontaneously that may change your trajectory in life.
This is how colleagues, founders and even romantic partners have come together. These serendipitous chats are how a lot of great relationships starts and what’s also the most fun and interesting about going to conferences - the networking.
COVID has turned networking upside down. Groups are not gathering in large numbers and hence, a lot of large conferences and networking events are now virtual. The conference material is easy to deliver, but the spontaneity and opportunity to meet new people — well that’s questionable.
So how are people solving the problem of virtual networking today? Let’s take a look at the options!
Most companies are already using Zoom as the default content delivery method, so it makes sense to use a Zoom breakout room to allow users to mingle.
The only problem is Zoom feels a bit clunky and breakouts feel far too rigid for a real networking event. To break out into the rooms, you first need the host to assign each individual to a room.
From a hosts perspective, imagine doing this for 300 individuals - this quickly turns into a nightmare. 😱
From a guests perspective, you randomly get assigned to join another meeting room, totally separated from everyone else and instead of feeling like it’s a fun spontaneous chat where you can mingle with others, it feels like another meeting where you’re stuck and can’t really leave!
Zoom has announced a way to let users choose the breakout room they are in but it is still a very clunky experience. It also forces groups to be much smaller, which feels like it is competitive to some of the virtual event companies coming out now.
TL;DR: Zoom breakouts are great for hosts who want more control over who goes into what room for the networking event, but not so great for a more organic and natural networking solution where users can move around themselves.
If you haven’t heard of Remo before, it’s a new-ish platform that contains all the different aspects of a conference or event.
You can watch your conference in a webinar like view and then after you can move to a floor plan where you click to join a table and speak to others sitting at that table. The table-networking is a little jarring at first, as you get thrown into the conversation but having the ability to move between different tables is great as users have the freedom to choose where to go and who to talk to. There’s even a break area you can go to if you want to catch-up on emails during and between events! 👩🏻💻
The table concept is great to help direct guests to the right conversation topic. But the platform is a little clunky and transition is not as smooth when you're moving between the tables and between the webinar view and networking view. The colours are a bit cheesy for certain types of events when you want a more polished and branded look.
TL;DR: Remo allows for more freedom for users to move around and having the table concept allows for different topics to be created, however the fluidity and UI/UX of the platform can be a bit better.
Icebreaker offers a unique twist to networking and is fairly out of the box. Basically you get matched with 1 other person and the both of you can go through "icebreaker" questions together! The assumption is to have a deeper conversation one on one versus a larger group conversation. Remo and others also offer this as a feature of their platform but Icebreaker probably nails the one on one use case the best.
It's playful and easy to use interface is great for new users and you can create an event fairly quickly and start using it. Ability to choose between different topic conversations like, "Wanna Get Away" or "Power + Privilege = Change for Good" (supporting BLM!) is great because you don’t need to come up with your own questions to ask. You can also bring everyone together into one big group chat which is perfect for making announcements and chat as one big group. They have a stage feature as well where 1 or a couple other folks can be on video to address the rest of the group.
The fun emojis and pink and blue colour really give the app a super playful personality!
TL;DR - If you're looking for a 1 on 1 networking tool with built in topic templates then Icebreaker is great! Not sure though about using this alongside a conference or webinar event though for a natural networking tool.
Rally is a video app that enables large groups to organically mingle and hop between different conversations while being fully immersed in the space.
Instead of talking about the app (which is a bit biased!) - it might be better for you to try it yourself! Sign up for an account here and let us know what you think!
TL;DR - Try it and tell us what you think!
We've been thinking about this topic a lot and apps have definitely come a long way since the beginning of quarantine to enable users to connect in a better way online. We've also got the 3D avatar apps we didn't go through today......(time for another post!)
It's very cool to see all the different ways networking can be interpreted and the different takes each app has on what networking online means. No doubt there's going to be some that are better than others for certain types of events and we encourage you to try them to see which one fits you!
For the fun organic events that invite serendipity - we hope you'll choose ours!