Networking events for just about every industry you can imagine have moved online, removing the human aspect out of the process and replacing it with screens and webcams.
Adjusting to this new era of virtual networking can be a bit confusing, especially if you're an offline relationship-maker. Mixing in speaking with industry leaders and innovative minds can make heading into your first virtual networking event all the more nerve-wrecking.
Nevertheless, virtual networking events are amazing opportunities to gain insightful information, knowledge, and to make connections in whatever field you work in. Naturally, exchanging physical business cards and shaking hands is impossible. But we now have Virtual Cards, and it is possible to have a rich networking experience online.
If you're looking for events like these, try the Eventbrite listings. Then spread the word, do your preparation, and be ready to talk. The effort you put in before and after the event may be more important than what actually goes on there. Don't miss the key details. We've summarized them here.
Post about the virtual event before you go
After registering for the virtual event that interests you, get onto your social media platforms and share your anticipated attendance with your network, and the world.
Doing this can help attract your fellow peers and potential prospects to join. It's always great to have a wing-person at a social event.
On the individual platforms:
- LinkedIn – That's the main one, and be sure to tag the event, organizer, and key guests
- Twitter, Facebook – Mentions and tags, sharing and retweeting when you can
- Instagram – Put up an image and/or story and add relevant hashtags
- And if you're establish on video, mention it on your YouTube and even in Tik Tok
Define your purpose and goals
Conferences are also large gatherings in one place. But these are usually a larger network of gatherings and have clear objectives and themes. A main goal here is information exchange.
Conference travel involves a deeper level of organizing, including itineraries, meetings, and events for those taking part.
Go through the attendee list
Most event coordinators provide access to their event guides and applications ahead of the networking event for participants to connect. Check to see if your event features a guest connect list. If provided, be sure to go through yours and arrange future networking targets in a proactive way.
If there's someone in particular you're looking to get some face-time with, approach them appropriately and at the right time (which may well be after the event has ended).
Do your best to comment on questions and regularly participate in live chat if applicable. Just don't overdo it. As a rule of thumb, only up to three questions and/or answers per session so as not to hijack the dialogue.
Be ready to introduce yourself
Most virtual networking events feature moments for individual introductions. It is networking, after all. This is especially true of more intimate smaller-scale events vs. massive online conferences.
Before diving into the event and turning on your webcam, spend a few minutes brainstorming clever yet professional and memorable ways to introduce yourself. Work in part of your elevator pitch.
Practice saying it a few times if you’re a nervous public speaker, even on webcam. Record yourself and check to see if you have any nervous ticks or need to improve your lighting or camera angle.
This preparation lets you perfect your tone and delivery so you say exactly what you mean in the allotted time. No pressure, no problem.
Many modern networking events have an ice-breaker for everyone to get a bit more comfortable. Give thoughtful answers that reveal just enough about you without oversharing.
Share insight on the event platform
Demonstrate your expertise and versatility by engaging with presenters and speakers. This of course is only applicable to forums where you feel comfortable sharing ideas and partaking in innovative discussions about the subject matter.
And don’t neglect the lighter conversation. This is an essential way of building trust in most cultures. Here’s a list of conversation ideas.
Do your best to comment on questions and regularly participate in live chat if applicable. But don't overdo it; as a general rule of thumb, only offer a maximum of three questions and/or answers per session so as not to hijack the dialog.
Keep cultures in mind as well. Some cultures, especially like in Singapore and Malaysia, are more understated. The big and confident Western approach doesn't go over so well with a lot of these folks.
Follow up with your new connections
Once the event has come to a close, you’ve likely made a few memorable connections or at the very least have found a few people of interest you'd like to connect with in real life. Following up with your new connections is a vital step in fostering a real relationship that could benefit you both in the future. Do the following to ensure you’re on the right path toward professional rapport:
- Send personalized thank you emails to your event contacts
- Browse social media platforms for mention of the event to find individuals also buzzing about the event
- Add your new connections on LinkedIn
- Setup and attend any post-event meetings/calls you may have coordinated during the event
In addition to these to-do’s, be sure to regularly check your email for any similar requests from event-goers trying to connect to you!
Make virtual networking work for you
Some challenges can turn up during an online networking session. Think of every conference call you've had recently: people talking over one another, awkward pauses, poor web connections, social cues lost in translation, and so on. So you adapt. The 2020s are off to a start that's full of change, and technology is sure to catch up.
In-person networking may still provide a stronger forum for real interactions, but when in-person just isn't possible, online networking is becoming an increasingly strong substitute.
Chasing new business opportunities and creating strategic partnerships without attending an in-person event is possible! Using the tips above on how to network at virtual networking events, you can stay in tune with your industry and foster new relationships that will take you to the next level.
Samantha Rupp is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com.
She lives in San Diego, California, and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.