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 one that’s held in person is that people can attend from all over the country, rather than being limited to the place where they live. This means that you can meet a much 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:

Get ready before the event starts.

Make sure that 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 grab something to drink. Have either a pen and paper or a Word document open so that you can take notes.

Prepare your introduction.

You’ll likely be making introductions in smaller groups via breakout rooms, but some events do a round-robin style where everyone makes their introduction in the main room before going into breakout rooms. Either way, you’ll only have a short amount of time to introduce yourself, so it’s important to keep your introduction short yet informative. Say your first and last name plus a sentence or two about what you do. You can get into more details when you’re paired up with someone for one on one networking, so think of the introduction as an overview.

Participate in discussions.

Most often a virtual networking even will kick off with either a short presentation or a few discussion prompts. Be an active participant in and engage in discussions in the chat. This will help you get to know some of the other attendees and start making connections. It’s also important to keep your video on during this time, for two reasons. One, it keeps you accountable to stay engaged, and two, it can help you stand out if many other people have their cameras off.

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Don’t hesitate to be the first one to speak up.

Someone has to speak first, so why not you? This applies to all parts of the event from open Q&A after a presentation to when you’re put into breakout rooms for the actual networking portion of the event. By speaking up, you’ll be able to get your questions answered, lead conversations, and ensure that people get to know who you are.

Having a go-to icebreaker question can help you get a conversation started and get people in the room to open up. Always ask a question that makes people answer with more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and make sure that it’s something that people can answer quickly without having to put too much though into it. Some great icebreaker questions are ‘what did you want to be when you grew up?’, ‘what’s your favorite vacation spot?’, ‘where are you located right now?’, or ‘do you prefer coffee or tea, or cats or dogs?’. All of these questions will get a conversation going and are far more interesting than simply asking about the weather!

Practice active listening.

It’s important that you pay full attention to what the other person or people in your group are saying, rather than thinking ahead to what you’ll say next. When you’re fully engaged in listening, you not only show the other person respect, but you get a lot more out of the conversation. You can ask deeper and more engaging questions and start to truly build a connection even in a short amount of time when you find the right balance between speaking and listening in a conversation.

How to end the conversation.

Thank the person or people in the room and let them know it was great to meet them and how you’ll be following 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 meeting you this evening Amy! I’ll send you an email after the event is over so we can stay in touch.”

Let the other person know how they can get in touch with you, and ask how they prefer to be contacted. This gives you a better chance of actually connecting after the event and will save you from sending them a message on LinkedIn only to find out that they only check that platform a couple times per month.

One last 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 both you and the other person can move on to meet someone else who might be a better match.

The Tycoon Herald