Networking. It’s been the bread and butter of doing business since, well, business began. Who you know, not what you know, right? Okay, that’s a bit reductive, but connections matter. Whether it was over coffee, on the golf course, or at a swanky cocktail party, networking equals relationships equals growth.
But then everything changed. Almost overnight with COVID, networking as we knew it disappeared. Handshakes? Gone. Conference happy hours? Cancelled. Suddenly we were looking at each other through computer screens instead of across café tables. It left us wondering—will networking ever be the same?
Now, as we crawl out of the pandemic (fingers crossed), the next era of networking is coming into view. And you know what? It looks pretty bright. Rather than a complete overhaul, what’s emerging is a flexible hybrid model, combining the best of in-real-life networking with new digital capabilities.
The Rise of Hybrid Networking
Hybrid networking blends online and in-person elements for an integrated experience. It gives people options to connect virtually or face-to-face (or both!). This format provides the classic value of human interaction while opening up new opportunities through technology.
Hybrid networking has grown rapidly thanks to digital platforms like www.weandgoliath.com. These sites offer awesome features to run hybrid events seamlessly. We’re talking live streaming, virtual conference rooms, AI-powered matchmaking, spatial audio—the whole shebang. You can create a top-notch digital experience while also incorporating in-person aspects for those who want that IRL flair.
More and more conferences, trade shows, galas, and corporate retreats are adopting the hybrid model—and for good reason. By providing flexibility, hybrid networking lets people connect how and where they want. And human connection, after all, is the heart of networking.
What This Could Mean for Businesses
Hybrid events open new doors for companies. They allow you to reach broader online audiences, engaging people across states, countries, and continents. They also enable more internal team members to participate. And with the wealth of data from virtual engagement, you can really dial in your event marketing strategies.
Plus, hybrid networking allows you to optimize spending between digital and in-person experiences. No more blowing the budget on a fancy venue or unnecessary travel and production costs. For many organizations, hybrid is here to stay because it just makes smart business sense.
Tech That’s Making It Happen
Hybrid networking is powered by some exciting tech innovations. We’re talking AI, AR/VR, and XR.
AI (artificial intelligence) allows for smart matchmaking between attendees, connecting people with shared interests and goals. Chatbots make networking conversations easier and can offer personalized recommendations for who you should meet.
AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) create immersive digital environments where remote attendees feel like they’re mingling in person.
XR (extended reality) seamlessly blends physical and digital spaces. Imagine virtual production studios where online guests interact with on-site hosts, or remote attendees using telepresence robots to navigate in-person events.
Bottom line—today’s innovations make hybrid engagement not just possible, but actually engaging. And there are even cooler tech possibilities ahead!
Marketing Tips and Tricks
For brands exploring hybrid events, success requires an integrated marketing strategy. Here are a few ideas:
- Promote the flexibility of your hybrid format—it’s a major draw for busy or far-flung audiences.
- Use email, social, SEO, SEM, lead gen—the works—to reach both virtual and in-person audiences.
- Build community at the event through online networking features and buzzy social media engagement.
- Collect attendee feedback before, during, and after the event to shape your ongoing marketing.
- Follow up and nurture leads post-event to keep conversations going.
Get creative with hybrid marketing and watch your audience, leads, and brand awareness grow!
Hybrid Networking Success Stories
The proof is in the pudding. Hybrid networking gets results, as these examples show:
- The Association of Writing Professionals 2021 Conference drew a whopping 3,000+ global attendees with its hybrid format—up from just 800 in past years! Post-event surveys showed 95% satisfaction on networking experience.
- The Robin Hood Investors Conference enabled remote investors to participate through virtual access, increasing funding commitments by 22% over past in-person-only events.
- Ford Motor Company’s Annual Leadership Summit improved collaboration between global team members—90% of post-event survey respondents said so!
The bottom line—hybrid opens new avenues for customer acquisition, revenue, talent development, and alignment.
The Future Looks Bright
Networking changed rapidly during COVID, but it certainly didn’t disappear. What we’re left with is an adaptable model fusing the traditional with the technological. Strategically designed hybrid events unlock major opportunities for reach, data, costs, and community. Could networking ever look like it did in 2019? Doubtful. But the future looks bright, friends. The future looks bright.