How to Build a Successful Alumni Networking with Virtual Networking Events

A successful alumni network is worth its weight in gold … or more. Alumni networks can keep undergraduate and graduate programs and schools strong, maintaining that feeling of investment that former students have over the years. Old students frequently become school boosters, champions of school initiatives and the parents of new students.

Alumni networks can also help folks nourish their connection to old places of employment, keeping them in touch with former bosses and colleagues and improving their current career and charity efforts. Studies show that relationships built in school and former work environments remain robust throughout life, impacting major business decisions.

Whether you’re a school or a business, your alumni networking efforts have a major impact on your funding, plain and simple. If you don’t yet have an alumni networking platform set up for event planning, it might be time to consider beefing up your tech to bring in more people, more money and – dare we say it? – more fun.

Why Build a Strong Alumni Network?

Unfortunately, alumni networks don’t just manifest over time. If you don’t carefully cultivate yours while your students or employees are with you and after they’re gone, you won’t see the results you want. Instead, you must start helping people invest in you while attending your school or working for your company. Then you have to follow that up once they move on. This two-pronged approach has a number of benefits:

  • Alumni build stronger relationships with your entity while they’re there, and those last over time
  • Alumni build relationships with one another, which helps keep your institution top of mind whenever they connect
  • They are more aware of you when it comes time to spend out on donations
  • Ditto when it comes time to refer colleagues to a new place of work or help their children pick out schools
  • Alumni serve as paragons of your community, attributing their accomplishments in part to your influence
  • They are more willing to help you achieve your goals and to invest in your efforts, even after they’re gone

Overall, empowered alumni networks improve your brand, help you gain recognition, increase the number of donations and gifts you receive throughout the year, make your events more special and generally expand your resources.

What Do Strong Alumni Networks Have in Common?

While strong alumni networks can take many forms, they have a few characteristics in common. These include, in no particular order:

  • Thorough spreadsheets of who your alumni are, where they live, what they’re doing and how to contact them
  • A regular newsletter, magazine or email blast
  • Consistent use of social media networks to stay connected with alumni
  • Thoughtful use of engagement tools
  • Alumni association-specific branding
  • Open lines of communication between the institution or company and the alumni network
  • Frequent use of events to draw donations, reignite alumni devotion and build your brand

This last is especially important.

How Do Virtual Networking Events Help?

To the heart of the matter: how does virtual networking improve your alumni network and your bottom line overall? Glad you asked.

The very nature of alumni networks is that they are far-flung. Whether you’re talking about people who graduated from the same college or used to work at the same company, they are no longer there – and therefore many of them are no longer in town. It’s hard, given those conditions, to get people together in person.

Any virtual event has the obvious benefits of educating your audience about what you do as well as specific drives you’re undertaking. It also brings scattered people together and increases their feelings of loyalty to your brand. More than that, virtual networking events enable you to create robust conferences, trainings, fundraisers and tradeshows without the need to book a physical venue or fly people in from all over the world.

With the ability to create a virtual environment in minutes, you can bring people together much more quickly. This also allows you to allocate fewer resources and team members to setting up a virtual venue or hybrid events. That said, let’s turn our attention to how to host a virtual networking event.

How to Create a Killer Virtual Alumni Networking Event

If you haven’t yet hosted a virtual event, you will likely benefit from some virtual networking ideas. Here are five of the most important.

1. Find Your Pull

Many organizations get stuck at this very first step, thinking their alumni will be delighted to attend any event out of the goodness of their hearts/love for their alma mater. Not so; people are busy, money is tight and they already have too many yeses on their plate.

So ask yourself: Why will people want to come? What will they get out of it? They understand that your purpose is to build a strong network so that you can get donations, connections or another resource. And that means they’ll want to know what’s in it for them. Whether that’s fun with themes, free or reduced-cost educational opportunities, or a good time to show their families, find your pull.

2. Book High-Quality Entertainment

High-quality entertainment is important. Any event should host speakers or music, panels or a combination of the three. Once you pen people in, make the effort to prepare your speakers for success and ensure they will mesh with your audience’s interests. Help them choose a topic that will resonate and, ask them if they need help preparing ahead of time.

Hiring entertainment doesn’t mean you need to pay out the nose, by the way. Many of your alumni will be willing to speak pro bono, while others will give you a discounted fee based on the relationship. All the more reason to stay in touch with your alumni all the time.

3. Do Your Promotional Legwork

Perhaps your most important challenge when throwing an alumni networking event is to make sure people know about it. Yes, you should craft a compelling invitation. Yes, you should send it out over email and social media, repeatedly, in the weeks and months leading up to your event. And yes, you should hire professionals to create your branded collateral, with typography, images and graphics that match your style guide.

But where possible, you should also incorporate powerful user-generated content. This not only reduces the amount of work you have to do yourself, it offers a level of social proof that you just can’t muster on your own. Reach out to your alumni network months beforehand to give them plenty of time to come up with it.

4. Hire a Virtual Event Coordinator

All the virtual networking tips in the world can’t turn you yourself into a virtual event planning expert. Instead of trying to learn a second career overnight, hire a coordinator that does this for a living. Better yet, hire a global business that combines years of experience with a suite of technological tools to help your event go off seamlessly.

No matter what you’re looking for in event tech integrations, try to find them under one roof. Think:

  • In-person event apps
  • Virtual venues
  • Webinars and replays
  • Learning management

… and more. When you can get all of these services at once, you can save major bucks and headaches on figuring out integrations and getting separate providers to work together.

5. Customize the Event to Your Needs

The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to customizing your event to fit your needs. A lot of event-planning companies are one-and-done, out-of-the-box affairs. We don’t believe in that. Instead, we know that your alumni network is as unique as your college or business, and we allow for the ultimate tailored experience.

Once you design your event, our customer service team – assigned specifically to you – will help you promote, launch and run your event, as well as regroup afterward to analyze what went right and what could go better next time. We guide customers and organizations through setup of a virtual event platform and the use of virtual event products through to the final bow.

Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your event planning partner is available in any time zone. Many alumni networks have suffered from the too-late discovery that their customer service team was asleep during their launch party. Whoops! When you work with a global event planning company, that won’t happen – so always pursue that fully customized partnership.

Get Help Planning Your Networking Event

Ready to learn more about virtual event solutions that can help you increase your brand presence, level up your connectivity and pump up those donations? 6Connex is here to help. We are the leading provider of in-person, hybrid and virtual event technology worldwide, and we’d love to add you to our roster of satisfied clients next.

Whether you’re in marketing, sales, HR, recruitment or training, we can help you craft a fully customized plan. Non-profits, schools and corporations all rely on us for ongoing sustainable events that allow you to engage and transform big ideas into real-world results. Request a virtual event platform demo to get started today!

 

 




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