Virtual events have become the new normal for the last two years. For every in-person event, there’s several more virtually. Networking has transformed when connecting with others through online encounters. This is a big win for the introverts (slightly). Prior to the last two years, networking was a skill to be learned. Knowing how to approach someone, what to say or ask, exchange contact information, and then some type of follow-up afterwards. This format, although different, still exists in the virtual world. There’s a craft when reaching out to someone through an attended online event that requires a formula and some coaching.
When you think of networking, both in-person or virtually, one of the biggest things remains the same – the importance of creating and cultivating a professional network. There are various ways to continue this goal in a virtual setting. Taking the skills you once knew and used and replicating them when online, can keep the momentum going as if you were meeting face-to-face.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way:
1. Research the Keynote Speakers
Do you know ahead of time who will be speaking? Perhaps there’s a sponsor attending the event? Knowing who will be joining the online event ahead of time can benefit you when thinking of ways to engage and later reach out. If you know that someone will be speaking on a topic or have an expertise in an area of which resonates with you, take notes, write down your questions, and make sure to collect any contact info they’ve shared to connect afterwards. These speakers could be direct contacts, but you won’t know unless you reach out. Make sure to mention something that stood out during the event so they can place themselves in that moment for a common thread.
2. Introduce Yourself in the Chat
One of the biggest differences from networking in-person to virtually are the resources you now have, like the chat box. Not every online event will allow you to use it, but for more intimate, or smaller events, the chances are high. The chat box is a great way to introduce yourself and use your elevator pitch. Use this to your advantage and let everyone know on the event who you are, what you do, selling yourself in one sentence. Depending on the event, you may know someone already attending or not, but take note of who’s active and looking to connect.
3. Take Part in the Discussions
Another way to engage is by participating in the open discussions if applicable. This is a big push in the right direction if you’re looking to verbally speak with someone through a common topic and to use as a segue into a follow-up email later. When you think about connecting with others, the most natural way to do it is by commonalities. Having that type of opportunity through a virtual conversation could be critical.
4. Utilize Social Media
Not only is social media a form of networking, it’s also a great way to express your interest in an event prior as well as after. Creating a buzz around the conversations you’re interested in can lead others to your accounts or pages. Using hashtags for specific events is another way to leverage some connections around a specific event. Social media is also an important factor when it comes to virtual networking because this will be the leading source of those follow-ups after attending an event. LinkedIn is used for more professional networking opportunities but the more and more we use our platforms, the more appropriate it is to connect on different ones.
Pre-virtual events are a time to do research, make your list of asks, and get your elevator pitch down to a tee. As for post-virtual events, this is all about the follow-up. Remember when we mentioned to take note of who was on the event; this will come in handy when reaching out to potential contacts for opportunities. Using the common thread that you both attended this specific event and maybe mentioning a specific point made will break the ice and allow you to make that introduction in a more seamless way. Connecting on social media as well as a direct email would be best practices.
Building successful relationships online will depend on your motivation and goals. Now that most of us are used to virtual networking, finding the right method of using those opportunities for future ones is part of the process.
Networking can be dreadful. Adding in a virtual component has its own perks and quirks. If you’re looking to take the work out of networking and other additional resources to help you build your career path, check out Luminary for available programs and events that uplift, up-skill, and propel others forward through all phases of their professional journey.
A first-of-its-kind, Luminary is a membership-based global professional growth platform and collaboration hub created for women and male allies to address the systemic challenges impacting women across all industries and sectors. The ultimate career advocate, Luminary provides “real world” advice, tools, and resources to advance, build, connect, and develop through programming and networking opportunities.
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