How to get the most out of a virtual networking event
Virtual networking events are a great way to expand your professional network. The advantage of a virtual event over an in-person event is that people can attend from all over the country, rather than being limited to where they live. This means you can meet a wider range of people and grow your network beyond your city and state.
Here’s how to get the most out of any virtual networking event you attend:
Prepare before the event begins.
Make sure you’re ready to go a few minutes before the event starts. Check your webcam, put your phone on silent, turn off computer notifications, and have something to drink. Open either a pen and paper or a Word document so you can take notes.
Prepare your presentation.
You will likely be doing small group presentations via breakout rooms, but some events are held in a round robin style where everyone does their presentation in the main room before entering the sub-rooms. commission. Either way, you will only have a short time to introduce yourself, so it is important that your introduction is short but informative. Say your first and last name plus a sentence or two about what you are doing. You can go into more detail when you’re paired with someone for one-on-one networking, so consider the introduction as an overview.
Participate in discussions.
More often than not, virtual networking even starts with a short presentation or a few prompts for discussion. Be an active participant and engage in the chat discussions. This will help you get to know some of the other participants and start making connections. It’s also important to keep your video on during this time, for two reasons. First, it forces you to stay engaged, and second, it can help you stand out if many other people have turned off their cameras.
Do not hesitate to be the first to express yourself.
Someone needs to speak first, so why can’t you? This applies to all parts of the event, from open-ended questions and answers after a presentation to the moment you are placed in chat rooms to the actual networking part of the event. As you speak, you’ll be able to get your questions answered, have conversations, and make sure people know who you are.
Having an icebreaker question can help start a conversation and get people in the room to open up. Always ask a question that prompts people to respond with more than just a “yes” or “no,” and make sure it’s something people can answer quickly without having to think too much about it. Some interesting ice breaker questions are “what did you want to be when you grew up?” “,” What is your favorite vacation spot? “,” Where are you located at the moment? Or ‘do you prefer coffee or tea, or cats or dogs?’. All of these questions will spark a conversation and are much more interesting than just asking about the weather!
Practice active listening.
It is important that you pay full attention to what the other person or people in your group are saying, rather than thinking about what to say next. When you are fully engaged in listening, you not only show respect to the other person, but you gain much more benefit from the conversation. You can ask deeper, more engaging questions and start to really make a connection even in a short time when you find the right balance between speaking and listening in a conversation.
How to end the conversation.
Thank the person (s) in the room and tell them it was great to meet them and how you will follow up. Whenever possible, use their name to make it more personal and to help you remember them better. Keep this short and sweet. For example, ‘It was great to meet you tonight Amy! I will email you after the event ends so we can keep in touch.
Let the other person know how they can contact you and ask them how they prefer to be contacted. This gives you a better chance to log in after the event and will save you from messaging them on LinkedIn to find out that they only check this platform a few times a month.
One more important thing to remember is that not everyone you meet will be a good match. When this happens, try to keep the conversation short so that you and the other person can move on to someone else who might be a better match.