Engage Your Online Community: 8 Online Networking Event Ideas

Jun 19, 2015 - Joe Matar
Everyone remembers their first job fair, whether it took place during senior year of college or after several years in the workforce. A few common elements come to mind: fretting over a wrinkled shirt; debating how many resume copies to print; wondering the best way to pull your resume from your folder without wrinkling it or dropping the entire folder. And if you’ve ever worked at a job fair to represent your company, you were probably anxious too, worrying, will anyone even come near my table? It’s stressful for everyone involved. That’s why we created a way to bring people together online, through live chat events. You can wear your pajamas. You can be anywhere in the world. And perhaps most importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with far more interesting people who are relevant to your career goals. While Brazen is known for hosting job fairs on our platform, you might be surprised at some of the other networking events we’re helping organizations offer. From happy hours to reunions to resume assistance — our clients have tried it all, and we’re developing new and unique event ideas every month. Here are a few ways we see clients using the Brazen real-time chat platform, ideas that might also work well to rally your community. (Click here to tweet this quote.) While you can to mix and match these events in a lot of ways to make them work for you, they all share our common goal: bringing people together.

1. Kick off job-search efforts

Want to offer job leads without hosting a recruiting event? Consider an employer open house, like the University of New Hampshire organized recently. This gives recent grads and alumni a chance to interact with representatives from local companies, to learn about job opportunities, as well as ask career advice and discuss industry news. Here’s another example: The Masa Israel program hosted a three-hour event this spring to connect its participants and alumni with more than 20 Jewish-focused organizations and nonprofits. The online format was perfect for reaching Masa Israel’s community in both the U.S. and Israel.

2. Create a virtual water cooler

Want to talk about work — without your coworkers or boss? The Columbia Alumni Association hosted a “workplace topics” chat for alumni of all professional levels. Booths focused on conflict resolution, salary negotiation, diversity, and work/life balance allowed more than 50 Columbia University alum to speak freely about the issues they’re facing and receive encouraging feedback from fellow alumni. It was a natural place to network, without the pressure of open positions, which meant alumni walked away with more contact in their virtual Rolodex.

3. Vet job candidates

The SANS Cybertalent Fair is no ordinary job fair. Attendees of this annual two-day fair for cybersecurity professionals are invited to take an assessment beforehand through SANS. By adding their scores to their Brazen profile, attendees can help stand out to potential employers. This event is a great example the importance of seeking top talent. Online job fairs allow you to connect with both active and passive talent, giving employers access to job seekers who may not have applied to their company. And, it gives employers the ability to showcase their companies.

4. Host happy hour — without picking up the bar tab

The University of Oregon’s Duck Career Network hosts virtual happy hour events for alumni to join as they wind down their work day. One recent offering was catered to alumni working in higher education and entertainment/media — a specialized crowd, but a pairing of careers that brought together many alumni in different fields of work.

5. Offer resume advice

Villanova University’s Ask the Coach chat enlisted career coaches to connect with participants seeking career advice. Short, individual chats with each expert allowed for job seekers to ask questions about transitioning careers, finding a new job, or refining their resumes in booths on each topic. Don’t think an online chat provides enough time to review a resume? Think again. Cedar Crest College recently offered a one-hour event that paired job-seeking alums with resume experts for brief reviews. Attendees prepare questions beforehand, upload their resume when the event starts, and the conversation just flows from there!

6. Connect colleges and potential students

Campus Pride and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network teamed up this spring to host a college fair of 50+ LGBTQ-friendly institutions. With participating schools ranging from Duke, to the University of Idaho, to Columbia College Chicago, the virtual fair allowed students to explore options they might not be able to visit. Meanwhile, the participating colleges didn’t need to send a representative to a central location. The event also provided resources and tips for financial aid, scholarships, and the admissions process. More than 300 conversations between students and admissions representatives took place during the event, which spanned an afternoon.

7. Be a business connector

Your event doesn’t have to be roped off for a certain industry’s networking needs. Georgetown University’s Alumni Career Services office teamed up with the school’s Entrepreneurship Alliance to host a chat for small business owners. It’s not just the camaraderie that’s helpful to determined business owners — you never know when a lucrative business collaboration might bloom.

8. Connect across time zones

Online events are perfect for study abroad programs or other international groups, since there’s no pressure to travel in order to catch up. The CIEE Paris study abroad program planned an event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its Paris Study Center, and invited participants and alumni. Meanwhile, in India, a University of Pennsylvania chat connected alumni from Bangalore to Mumbai and beyond. Indian alumni could meet local Penn grads, or offer advice to current Penn students hoping to work in India. Who would you bring together for an online networking event? Ginny Manocha is the Director of Accounts and Customer Success at Brazen. Ginny describes herself as curious learner and loves reading about new trends between business, technology, and marketing. Follow her @ginnymanocha or connect on LinkedIn.

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