The Emerging Payments Association regularly holds its networking drinks in a City bar in London, where its members and guests can listen to the latest industry trends and informally catch up over drinks at the end of the working day.  The events are greatly missed by members, so we were excited when we got the opportunity to sponsor and co-host the event in a completely new pandemic-proof format. 

While there will always be a place for in-person events, we believe events like the one we sponsored are the future of conferences and networking.  Here is what we learnt.

A great virtual events platform makes the difference

EPA used Remo, a platform that uses video, audio and chat to allow  participants to interact naturally from wherever they are. Participants enter a conference ‘space’, where you literally choose a table or lounge area to join. Once you join it, your video and audio links up to the other delegates allowing you to chat to those on your table, or listen in to a presentation from the main stage.

Block the time out and be present

It can be tempting to try to attend a virtual conference while doing other tasks online such as checking email. Treat the virtual networking event as you would an in-person event by blocking your calendar, being completely present and tuning out to your phone and messages.

Use the unique situation to your advantage

It can be even easier to network at an online event than at an in-person event. You can make comments to anyone else in the ‘room’ by sending them a private message – for example by directly messaging someone who asks an interesting question during a Q&A. You don’t need to awkwardly look down at lanyards to try to remember someone’s name since you can see it by right clicking on them. You can also take a note there and then of your conversation and action your follow up. For people who have not experienced a virtual conference event format before, this itself is a great ice breaker and conversation starter.

Nail the new networking etiquette

In-person networking involves navigating a crowded room with business card, warm wine and mandatory vol-au-vent in hand, while scoping out the best people to speak to and then attempting to start a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it can be difficult enough in person, so how do you tackle it online? Tony Craddock, CEO of EPA said:

“One thing we found particularly interesting was the intro and outro to a conversation.  If you are already on a table and someone joins, we would recommend to specifically welcome the participant by name when they come into the conversation.”

An example could be ‘Hi, Helena good to see you how are things going?’. On leaving, rather than just abruptly going we suggest to mention everyone by name and say goodbye ‘Jenny, it’s been really nice chatting with you, Smriti it was good to meet you, Marco we will catch up soon. Bye everyone.’

The more inclusive format leads to a new dynamic

There are so many ways this event format is more inclusive. John Malone, Head of Global Marketing at Trust Payments noted:

“One group who will feel more included in this event format is the neuro-diverse, or those who are more introverted in social situations. These participants are on a more even playing field at online events as they don’t have the pressure of in-person social interaction.” We agree that this is a great way to shake up the dynamic to ensure more equal participation from all delegates.  

We look forward to many more of these events in future.