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Making networking a valuable experience in virtual events

Groups that struggle to replicate the casual conversations that occur during in-person events must take more structured approach


Feb. 5, 2021
By Walt Williams

Networking with peers is a big reason why many people attend association events, but duplicating that experience in a virtual environment has proven a challenge. The solution may be a more coordinated approach to getting people to connect.

The National Recreation and Park Association was among the many associations that had to transition its annual in-person conference to a virtual event last year. Networking has always been a major component of the event, but the group’s first try at online networking ended in mixed results, according to Amanda Hersey, NRPA’s director of conferences.

“As we started to shift and turn into a virtual event, we learned quickly that it was going to be so much harder to incorporate that networking element into the conference,” Hersey said. “We were worried about online fatigue—that long days of online education sessions and general sessions were going to be too much.”