We are all adapting in our efforts to build online communities.

The challenge with so many social media platforms is that we often create reinforcement bubbles for ourselves, curating our feeds (whether intentionally or not) based on personal affinity. And, too often, when those reinforcement bubbles burst and we’re confronted with someone online who has different viewpoint than ours, arguments and negative messaging follows from all sides.

COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to create new formats to combat a social recession, at least until we can connect together in person again. Below are NEWaukee’s tips to create a successful online networking event.

  1. Pick a Theme | When planning the event, have a theme that will keep the conversation on topic.
  2. Have a Moderator | Make sure the program is consistently moderated to keep all people engaged and ensure the conversation is flowing.
  3. Be Inclusive | Not everyone is comfortable speaking first. Don’t be afraid to offer an example or call on people during the program, and encourage everyone to have a voice.
  4. Prepare Thoughtful Questions | Draft a set of thoughtful questions around the theme that will inspire conversation and provoke deeper thought.
  5. Experiment with the Format | On Zoom, we recently experimented with breakout rooms. Instead of networking for a full hour in one large room, we created a series of break-out rooms with a four-minute timer. We prompted everyone with a question, and then randomly assigned one-on-one conversations. We repeated that process five times, allowing for deeper personal connections as individuals had the chance to get to know one another better.
  6. Ask Questions and Use Real-Time Data | Use polling or other features to find out why people are showing up to the event. Direct the conversation to target peoples’ objectives and make their time worthwhile.
  7. Create Belonging | Look at each event as a way to build a community for the program. In other words, make those who attend the event feel like they are becoming part of a larger club or network.
  8. Have Consistency | Don’t create one event and think you can build belonging. This only comes with repetition. Trust is shared experience over time.
  9. Follow Up | After the event is over, have everyone post their email or LinkedIn account as a way for people to follow up after. Challenge everyone in attendance to follow up with at least one person they met during the event.

For more information and to register for NEWaukee’s virtual events, visit our Cloud Café.


Written by Jeremy Fojut
Co-Founder | Chief Idea Officer at NEWaukee


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