In the world of COVID-19, networking has taken on a new approach. Everything is virtual! So what does that mean for you and developing professional connections? For starters, it means you can network from the comfort of your home without geographic constraints. Now that events are virtual, it's important to strategize how you will connect digitally. It's essential to take a deliberate approach that enables authentic engagement and relationship building. Keep in mind that your activities should link back to your networking goals.
With that said, here are a few ways to make the most out of virtual networking events.
1. Create a Networking Goals List
Your networking goals can be simple. They might include connecting with five new people or exchanging contact information with three attendees. The purpose of this list is to make sure you get something meaningful from the event. It will also help keep your efforts focused so you can invest your time wisely.
2. Research and Choose the Right Groups and Associations
The other good news is that most previous networking outlets you were using have now moved virtually, so you can keep checking those outlets. Remember to identify the right groups and events by thoroughly prospecting any relevant options. If you are a project manager, PMI is a no-brainer; lookup Agile groups, product management groups, technical management groups, and other relevant areas.
3. Expand Your Involvement Across States or Regions
A silver lining to our new normal is that it opens more groups since you don't have to commute. For example, if you are a data professional interested in PowerBI, lookup relevant groups in your state or neighboring states. Also, keep in mind that some cities might have more relevant jobs than others. If you're not finding the right jobs locally, expand your networking beyond your city.
4. Publicize Your Attendance
Use your social media channels to communicate your registration and attendance pre-event and post-event. Use any relevant hashtags associated with the event. This is a great way to put yourself out there and attract any peers or prospects attending or participating.
5. Review the Event Schedule and Attendees
Most event organizers provide access to the event schedule and attendee list in advance. It is essential to go through this ahead of time to create your targeted sessions and connections. This should tie in with your networking goals. This proactive approach will help steer your engagement and outcome.
6. Actively Participate
It's obvious but challenging now that the face-to-face piece has been eliminated. However, there are still ways to participate. Don't be afraid to market yourself actively. Using the platform's chatbox, you can provide details about what types of positions you are looking for and you can plug-in your LinkedIn profile URL. Other ways to participate include thoughtfully commenting on topics, being active in any live Q&A sessions with the platform's engagement tools, and using real-time messaging during presentations. Be mindful of not hijacking a conversation, though! Engaging in the virtual event will show the value you are getting from attending.
7. Promote Yourself
Don't be shy about actively marketing yourself. Use the chatbox to do professional plug-ins about what you are looking for, and include your LinkedIn profile. For example, you can share, "Is anyone hiring project managers? I'm new to the job market and actively looking. I have over ten years of project management experience in the eCommerce and Healthcare industries. I have a PMP and a CSM. Any suggestions on jobs or recruiters would be most appreciated!"
8. Follow Up With Connections
After the event, it's necessary to use your social media channels to connect. Your event engagement will help build trust with your new contacts. Let them know you value their opinions and comments, as opposed to sounding like a sales pitch.
Overall, these guidelines will help drive your virtual networking strategy and activities. Remember to focus on the quality of your connections versus quantity. Good luck with your networking, and stay healthy!