Is it still even possible to connect and network with others at events and conferences, now that we’ve mostly gone online for the time being? The answer is yes now that networking in a pandemic for just about every industry has moved online.
With virtual access to industry leaders and skillful speakers, business participants can get all the same information, education, knowledge, and training from the safety of their home office or couch.
What’s truly missing from experience, though, is how to network at virtual conferences and events, both the random kind that occurs when you wait in line for coffee and exchange business cards and do the rounds at an after-conference event, but networking in a pandemic event-goers know that this connection making at a conference is imperative for the experience and career growth. While handshakes are considered off the table in a time of socially distanced virtual events, professional connections remain the same.
Announce your attendance before and after the event.
The first thing you need to do after registering for your next business virtual event is making yourself noticed. Rely as much as possible on your social media accounts to attract peers and prospects who may also attend. Include, a compelling announcement about the event via:
- Personal webpage or blog
- LinkedIn (both as an update to your profile and also within the right LinkedIn groups)
Similar to a dating app, your participant profile is an efficient and effective way for event-goers to discover what you do, who you are, and how to reach you outside the virtual space.
Let’s face the music: You’ve been in yoga leggings since March, so at least try to show the conference that you’re more than a new sofa cushion. Use your social media profile to showcase yourself as someone looking to meet an” e-commerce business wizard”.
Establish your goal early
Today, more than ever, it’s essential to have a well-put plan. With virtual business events, there’s no chance you’ll meet someone while grabbing lunch or waiting in line for a coffee. Virtual networking in a pandemic asks for more intentionality and planning, but the results in time will be about the same since you won’t be hurrying from session to session or travelling to a conference centre.
Work on your goals on networking in a pandemic – these can be things like “ introducing yourself to six new people” or “trade emails with ten participants” – making a list allow you to focus your efforts and help you better understand how and where to invest your time to further your professional advancement and personal career success.
Take advantage of group chats.
Most virtual events will create their own live attendee discussion board or chat. Use their platforms as an opportunity to join targeted debates on the topic you can act as an expert on, or a community member looking to learn from the best.
You should see the virtual chat room as a replacement for the business networking groups, so get yourself a coffee and make sure you check in multiple times throughout the conference.
If the event you’re attending is smaller, and perhaps only a couple of hours long, look to see if there is a Q&A chat box or panel you can participate in. Avoid being reticent when asking the question –be as chatty as you can and try to respond to other participants who may be waiting on the conference host to see their message.
Actively participate in sessions
As we all adjust to the new normalcy in working remotely and performing events online, people acknowledge the fact that online stand-ins for events are never going to be perfect – however, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve that.
Perhaps, you’re only passively participating and most likely you’re missing valuable discussions. Now multiply this one-hour conference by two days full of multiple sessions, and the urge to multitask will be tremendous.
By focusing on the live session, you will learn more and have some useful conversation starters for the event forums. Note interesting sections that you will want to dive deep into or prepare yourself to ask how others have implemented tips the host left you with.
In doing so, you guarantee yourself a spot in a networking conversation starter; as a chat investigator, you will be deeply entrenched in any direction that conversation may go. Who knows, you might even be reposted or retweeted by a fellow member, which has been known to happen once in a while.
Other ways to network digitally?
- Follow events hashtags, but the next step is important: Try to comment and reply to popular or trending industry threads whenever you have the chance. Follow that event hashtag and get in on the networking action, particularly when you can’t attend.
- Think outside the event. Join a new community or form a board of directors of like-minded individuals, to soundboard new ideas.
To get the most out of an online business event means you have to know your goals, purpose, and have a well-put plan. And opportunities are plenty, but all you need is to put in the effort. It might be tempting to quietly listen in on an interesting topic, while also checking on your kids and pet, making that second cup of coffee, or purchasing one last pair of yoga pants. But, by not engaging yourself in the virtual event experience, you are clearly missing out on the potential to form valuable connections and create new leads from the comfort of your home.
Only because you can’t shake hands doesn’t mean you can’t form new networks. Actually, you can still get connected to new strategic relationships and business opportunities without attending an in-person conference. Use the steps above to get started on your road to leveraging the benefits of virtual business events to making new valuable events. At the end of the day, a successful event will be defined by how much value you feel you’ve gained