(This post was originally published on SmallBizMke.com.)
Here’s something to add to your small business owner toolkit—Virtual United. Once you experience it, you’ll likely want to introduce this new way of networking to your own communities. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to break out of structured platforms and into one that encourages free-flowing and intentional networking. They’ll also enjoy the enormous potential to connect and interact with new clients and business associates.
That’s how the team at Virtual United—Benjamin Hansen, Benny Pekala, Robinson Cook and Juliet George—see their new product meeting the needs of small business owners. Others believe in their vision, as well, and the Wisconsin community has been an outstanding resource for helping Virtual United grow. For example, they are recipients of the We’re All Innovating award from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC); were provided feedback and workshopping with the exceptional Brookfield Chamber of Commerce; and have been supported by an incredible group at Capital Entrepreneurs.
Knowing I would be writing about this virtual “conference center,” I recently attended the very first Small Business Milwaukee cocktail party hosted with Virtual United. Pulling from that experience, my interview with Benny Pekala, their website and their social media platforms, here’s what I now know about Virtual United. I put it in the easiest format for you to digest, a bulleted list:
- It’s an event platform/software and is designed for fluid networking.
- Attendees choose what conversations to join and when they want to leave.
- The entire experience, Benny says, is meant to be “comfortable and authentic.”
- It’s entered through a computer browser; no download is required.
- User tutorials and an organizer’s handbook are available.
- Virtual United creates customized event pages to include company branding and information.
- Just as they do at live events, attendees can form their own conversations—“dynamic groups” as they’re called by Virtual United.
At Small Business Milwaukee (where I am the Senior Writer), Founder Tracy Champagne has us continually learning and experimenting with many different tools. Examples include social media management apps, website builders, project management software and web-based networking services. She now has us working with Virtual United and hosts regular meetups with it.
Here’s what Tracy says about the platform:
Virtual United duplicates the experience of going to an in-person networking event or even a cocktail party. Imagine you are walking into a room full of people and everyone is standing around in small groups, socializing and getting to know each other. You walk up to a group where you know someone, they introduce you to someone else in the group and it just takes on a life of its own after that. There is no confinement. Come and go as you please. Talk to whomever you want. If you are looking to spice up your networking, going to events on this platform is the way to go.
There are several ways to get information about Virtual United. I’d first recommend viewing this quick video to get a basic sense of things. Next, go to LinkedIn (one of the best ways to connect with Virtual United, according to Benny). Here are other sources, as well:
You might also want to attend a Small Business Milwaukee Jam held bi-weekly through Virtual United. Almost everyone attending is a newbie to the platform, making it fun to experiment and learn with other early adopters.
By the way, early adopters benefit from special perks.