3 tips for networking during virtual events: not muting is the new Reply All …

3 tips for networking during virtual events: not muting is the new Reply All …

virtual networkingSince March, I’ll admit that the most networking I’ve done has been with my Amazon shopping cart. No one else knows my current reading list, new office setup, or my latest work wardrobe as well as my Prime delivery driver does.

But, even Amazon can’t fill the void that’s newly formed in my life: I miss conferences. No, wait, I miss NETWORKING at the conferences – and right about now is when conference season typically starts. For me, conferences are the start of my business outreach season and how I keep up-to-date with industry trends.

In lieu of in-person events, many companies are turning to the web. By hosting a digital conference, they can still engage with their community of users, keep sponsors interested, and promote new products along the way. The downside for you and me is the missed opportunity to network with old friends and make new connections.

One of the best parts of any conference (again, for me) is the ability to talk with a real living person in more than two dimensions – and now we’re expected to sit through a day of sessions, without the reward of a cold drink and good conversation?

IT’S A TRAVESTY!!!

Okay, I’m being dramatic, but can you blame me? Like I said earlier, conference season is also the start of my business outreach efforts. I’m not the only one; many businesses I work with were also relying on these events to help foster new partnerships and growth opportunities. So, with that in mind, I came up with a list of ways for us to network digitally, even without a beautiful welcome reception or catered wrap-up event.

Here are three great tips and tricks to help you network during a virtual event.

NOTE: All beverages and food must be self-catered. Sorry.

#1: Work your event profile

Just like a dating app, your attendee profile is an effective and efficient way for other event goers to discover who you are, what you do, and how to reach you outside the virtual world. Let’s face facts: You’ve been in yoga pants since March, so let’s show the world (or at least the conference) that you’re more than just a new sofa cushion.

virtual conferenceBy writing a great profile showcasing yourself, a person looking to meet an “e-commerce bookkeeping wizard” or a “business partnership master” has a better chance of finding just that.

In addition, take advantage of all the profile fields you are offered by the event. Can you connect your social media profiles? That’s a quick way to gain new followers. This tool is open to you, so for the love of everything, take 10 minutes and introduce yourself to your e-conference community in your own unique way.

#2: Take advantage of group chats

Most virtual events create their own live attendee chat or discussion board. Use these forums as a chance to join targeted discussions on topics you can act as an expert on, or as a community member looking to learn from others.

virtual conferencePro tip: Only set a background or video effect on … IF YOU KNOW HOW TO TURN IT OFF. Learn from this potato’s mistake.

The virtual chat room will act as a replacement for the networking breaks, so pour yourself a beverage and make sure you check in multiple times throughout the event.

If your event is smaller, and maybe only a few hours long, look to see if there is a “Question and Answer” panel or chat box you can participate in. Don’t be shy to ask questions, or even respond to other attendees who may be waiting on the event host to see their message.

#3: Actively participate in sessions

Has this ever happened to you? It’s lunchtime and you’ve signed up for an interesting webinar. You’ve also taken this opportunity to put on a fresh pot of coffee, make a small lunch, and check a few emails, all while listening in, or so you’ve promised yourself.

The truth is, you’re only passively participating and most likely missing beneficial discussions. Now, multiply this one hour webinar by a day (or days) full of multiple sessions, and the urge to multitask will be overwhelming.

By focusing on the live session, you will learn more and have some great conversation starters for the event forums. Take note of interesting sections you want to dive deep into or prepare yourself to ask how others have implemented tips the presenter left you with. You’ve guaranteed yourself a spot in a networking conversation starter; as the chat instigator, you’ve deeply entrenched yourself in any direction that conversation may go.

Who knows, you might even be retweeted or reposted by a fellow attendee, which has been known to happen from time to time.

Bonus tips (from a pro): Other ways to network digitally

Not everyone has the time for a virtual conference pass right now. Whether it’s the cost or you just don’t have enough time in the day, here are two other ideas to network:

  1. Follow the event hashtag, but the next step is important: BE BRAVE. Comment or reply to trending or popular industry threads whenever you can. Trendjack that conference hashtag and get in on the networking action, especially when you can’t attend.
  2. Think outside the (event) box. Form a board of directors, or join a new community of like-minded professionals, to soundboard new ideas. “Not the Only One Roundtable” on my website is a great example of networking virtually, if I do say so myself #ShamelessPlug.

The bottom line

Be an active virtual event goer; there are plenty of networking opportunities if you put in the effort. It might be tempting to passively listen in on an interesting panel discussion, while also checking on your kids, making that third pot of coffee, or buying “one last pair” of sweatpants from Amazon. But, by not engaging yourself in the virtual experience, you are missing out on the potential to network from the comfort of your own home.

Event sponsors may already have your registration information, so was it really worth all the unsubscribes if you didn’t learn and meet new people? As an added bonus, you can meet and talk with all these attendees while wearing your new yoga pants. No one will ever know.

Let the age of comfortable virtual event networking begin!