The face of the events industry has changed radically. Most conferences and training courses that you had planned to attend this year have probably moved to online platforms.
A natural question as HR professional then is, what happens to the incredible relationships you’re able to build at in-person conferences and training courses?
To answer this question, conference and training providers are getting super creative to help attendees exploit networking opportunities at their virtual events. Since earlier this year, at Informa Connect, we’ve been delivering specially curated learning solutions through our online courses, and our delegates recently enjoyed our first two virtual conferences, ATD Virtual Conference and Compensation & Benefits Forum. We realize that meeting people and making new connections for your business and career progression are still vital and although you’re not meeting people in the queue for coffee or exchanging physical business cards, there’s no reason you can’t create new business opportunities and build key relationships at our virtual events.
Candid conversations with our virtual events’ delegates, speakers, and trainers have given us tremendous insight so I’ve put together 10 key networking tips to help you leverage the unique advantages of virtual events to develop meaningful connections at your next virtual event.
Before the Event:
- Set Your Networking Objectives: You may want to make new connections to secure sales leads, develop better relationships with existing clients, talk about a new product, connect with new suppliers, or meet with potential employers. Whatever your motivation, defining your objectives will help channel your focus and maximize your investment in the event
- Set the Stage – Your Pitch, Profile, and Matchmaking: A rehearsed pitch will prevent “Umms and Ahhs” and help you perfect your message and focus on what others are saying instead of spending time thinking about your introduction. Most conference platforms have exciting AI matchmaking which makes recommendations for you to develop the right connections. Having a well-thought and complete personal profile on the event platform will go a long way in helping you meet people who matter to you, your business, and your career.
- Learn About Your Fellow Delegates: The event’s virtual platform will show you who’s attending the event. A few days before the event, bookmark your dream list, research these key people, schedule meetings, and prep yourself to have a meaningful conversation with them at the event.
- Connect With Key Clients Beforehand: Use the event’s hashtags on LinkedIn to publicize your involvement and/or email key clients/suppliers to tell them you look forward to meeting them at the event. If your company is a sponsor at key industry events, arrange for meetings/demos at your virtual booth.
- Participate in Social Media Discussions: Reaching out to people becomes a lot easier when they already know of you, and because a lot of the conversation happens on social media even before the virtual event takes place, you can get people to take notice of you. Give yourself a networking head start by initiating or responding to online conversations about the event.
During the Event:
- Get Dressed: When you’re dressed (at least waist-up), you’re saying you’re ready for business. Plus, you’ll feel confident to turn your camera on. People feel more inclined to engage with you when they can see you, so rather than being a thumbnail on the screen, be a real person, and see how your engagement skyrockets.
- Ask Questions: People love talking about what’s important to them. Networking chatrooms are your platform to connect with your top-priority people and ask the right questions (be careful to not be overbearing) to gain insight about their work, organization, and what they value.
- Connecting on LinkedIn and Twitter: The virtual event’s app on your smartphone will help you scan business cards. Let’s say you meet someone, exchanged business cards, and hit it off. What you do with that momentum is super important. Connect with them on LinkedIn right away and drop them a short, friendly message. If you’re both on Twitter, tweet a snapshot of you and them with a hashtag like #gladtomeetyou. That way, you can follow up with them easily after the event.
- Sharing Insights on Social Media: Once you’ve done a good job of becoming really popular though your social media interaction before the event, don’t stop there. Your networking game becomes way more effective and efficient when you share knowledge and insights on social media. Continue to make an impact and become the go-to person for live updates by posting valuable observations of key learning points at the event.
- Have Fun: This last tip is super important. Event organizers intersperse fun competitions, live games, polls, health and wellbeing, or entertainment activities throughout the events. Become the one whom people want to network with; get your name on the leader boards and enjoy your experience.
Once the event is over, remember to follow through. Get back in touch with the people you met, remind them briefly about your conversation with them, and enjoy the fruit of your networking efforts.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope you find these tips useful. While we wait for face-to-face conferences and training courses to resume, their virtual counterparts continue to be platforms for knowledge sharing, access to expert practitioners and industry thought leaders, networking, education, and training from the comfort of your home. These are incredible marketing opportunities so get ready to hone your networking skills and leave an awesome impression whether you’re attending as a delegate, exhibiting, or presenting at virtual events.
I’d love to hear from you. What virtual events have you attended lately? Please share your networking experiences in the comments.
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