No one could have predicted this pandemic and stay-at-home orders, but it's great to see communities have been utilizing virtual networking successfully to make connections.
Event hosts have quickly adapted to digital platforms in order to bring communities together on the internet. Very different from what many of us are used to, but technology, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, have made it very easy to participate.
While the online space has made it easier to form relationships, when it comes to reaching out to people, the good rules of in-person networking still apply. You wouldn’t for example walk up to random speakers at a conference and hand them your business cards or resumes. Instead, you would memorize their names, research them online and approach them with a meaningful conversation starter.
As always, being prepared can go very far in social situations. Here are four ways you can get the most out of your virtual events:
1. Utilize LinkedIn or Google
If you are a professional, you NEED to be on LinkedIn first of all. Second, after for an event, go back to the agenda and write down the names of the speakers you’re interested in talking to. Look them up on Google, LinkedIn and other social networks to find common interests or learn what they’ve been up to.
Make note of relevant information and think about how you can incorporate them into your outreach. Just like in school, doing your homework goes a long way in making the other person comfortable and receptive to hearing from you!
2. Be clear on what you want the end result to be
Having a plan is incredibly important, even in networking from home. Don't just randomly attend events because they seem cool or interesting. Have a specific goal for what you want out of interactions with the speakers.
Would you like to just ask them a question in the chat or actually have a one-on-one video call? Are you hoping to turn them into potential mentors, job leads or industry connections? Figure out how they can offer the most value to you and be VERY articulate about your goal. Be sure to also mention how you can use your resources to support them as well because it's not always about you!
3. Follow-up and stay in touch
Building relationships is important. Maintaining those relationships is even MORE important! If you reach out to a potential connection and don’t hear back from them after more than a week, politely follow-up as they might have missed your message the first time.
If you do successfully reach them and they offer their time in any way, be sure to not only thank them but also keep in touch in the future. This can mean sending regular updates of what you’re doing as well as warm message to acknowledge their milestones or offer help for upcoming projects.
Just like a friendship, a professional relationship requires constant nurturing. Be intentional. Care. Have grace. Have something to say and maintain your connection in meaningful creative ways.