A big shift that’s happening in the professional world is the increased number of virtual networking events. Conferences, career fairs, panels, and information sessions have all moved online, at least for the rest of 2020. With so many events of varying types and sizes, it can be hard to know what to expect or even what to do. These four suggestions will make it easier for you to confidently show up at your next virtual event.
One of the challenges of remote work is the higher potential for distractions. We are all managing more home and work responsibilities which can make it difficult to fully focus on one thing. But just as you might take a day to travel to a conference, or spend an hour at a networking reception, dedicate time to attend virtual events. Maybe you can’t commit to a full afternoon of sessions, but you can join a selected few. Perhaps an event that requires you to be on camera won’t work with your schedule, but a text-only chat event would fit better. Check with the event organizers to understand the event format and set aside a specific amount of time to attend.
Do Some Prep Work
Just as you would review the map of booths at an in-person career fair, review the agenda and attendee information for virtual events. Check that you’ve got the details for how to join and if there is any set up you need to do ahead of time, such as downloading an app, uploading your resume, or registering for sessions. A benefit of virtual events is that more information is available beforehand, so you can use sites like LinkedIn to learn about the recruiters and participants.
Once you decide to attend a virtual networking event, think about your desired outcome. Are you hoping to meet new colleagues? Learn more about a topic or potential opportunity? Once you know what you want, put in the effort to get that result. If learning is the goal, prepare some questions ahead of time and be sure to submit them during Q&A. If you’re hoping to make new connections, look for ways to directly engage. Introduce yourself in breakout groups, or send a private message to someone:
- I saw from the attendee list we both (INSERT SOMETHING YOU HAVE IN COMMON), it’s nice to meet you.
- Thank you for sharing that resource. Would you mind if we exchanged emails so I could ask about your experience?
Whether the networking exchange is virtual or in-person, you get out of it what you put into it, so be an active participant.
This is standard advice for any networking event, and it’s no different now that things are happening online. Ask for contact information directly from attendees or find out if there will be another way for participants to connect with each other. Schedule one-on-one calls (with or without video) or exchange resources via email so that you can build upon the initial meeting.
As virtual events continue to evolve, the manner in which we show up will also continue to change. With a little bit of preparation and thoughtful engagement, we can achieve more meaningful connections from virtual networking.