A few days ago, I talked to a colleague with whom we had the opportunity to do business. He asked me when I would show up in Warsaw because he would be happy to meet for a beer and discuss a few things as in the good old days. I’m living in Gdansk, and I used to visit our capital twice a month. Usually, we had a chance to meet at startup conferences and use the evening networking. But that was before COVID-19. During the conversation, I realized that the last time I attended a conference was eight months ago. It was a long time for someone who often met with people during events. COVID-19 restrictions have turned the event industry upside down. By the way, unfortunately, it has exposed the low value of many meetings and conferences. Nevertheless, it was not the event itself that was important, but the people and the lifestyle of networking.
Since the first lockdown, a large group of us has switched to remote working. Most of the event organizers have also done it. We are conducting the whole acceleration process ourselves. For the last eight months, I had the opportunity to take part virtually in many events. As far as knowledge transfer, videoconferencing gives similar possibilities compared to traditional ones. But, it limits the whole networking very much. So, I would like to share a few insights that will enable you to network at online events effectively.
The essential issue is the right choice of events and set up your goals for it. After the initial hype for online conferences, most people got sick and tired of all those virtual events. There is no point in subscribing to all the possible meetings that are available during the week. Some of them will not bring any value, and you won’t have enough time to attend them all and focus on learning. A much better solution is to choose only those events that can bring you closer to something at a given moment. They will help you gain new knowledge, learn about recent trends and solutions, or reach essential people.
Tips for effective networking at online conferences:
- Choose the right meetings and set up your goals
- Browse the speakers’ list and check their LinkedIn profiles – find out who could recommend you to such a person. Check what shared experiences or passions you have – it’s always a good point to start a conversation.
- Prepare a few questions related to the topic or a specific speaker – organizers usually allow the audience to ask questions or publish them in a chat. It’s an excellent opportunity to get the knowledge that is of interest to you or show up at the event. If the speaker covered a topic that you would like to ask, change the question to a more specific one, or choose another one from your list.
- Verify the event’s social media page – it will give you a preview of the participants of the meeting and allow you to verify who is worth hooking up.
- Prepare to introduce yourself – some organizers ask participants to introduce themselves. 2-3 sentences about who you are, what you are doing, and why you are here will help others assess whether it is worth working with you. If possible, you should add your contact data and a short bio in your conference profile or mobile app.
- During the event, check the list of participants – afterward, you can send them invitations to LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to share impressive authorial materials you have (reports, videos, case studies, blog posts, articles, etc.).
- Hook up the speakers and the organizer – thank you for participating in the meeting and inviting them to your friends. Use this moment to refer to your shared interests/passions/experiences or ask questions that you did not have time to answer during the meeting.
- Prepare your meeting calendar – nobody likes to set a convenient meeting date for everyone. It is worth using Calendly like solutions, which will allow every person you want to meet to check your availability and adjust to it. Here you can see how I manage it.
- Use matchmaking opportunities – if the conference or event organizer prepared any matchmaking, you should use it. Don’t ask every participant for a short meeting. Pick them wisely and respect your and their time.
- Share knowledge that you have gained – your social media profiles will be a perfect place to share important moments of meetings and conferences. Don’t forget to mark speakers and use meeting hashtags.
Remember to establish contacts after the event. It will be much more natural than sending invitations to your friends during the session. It will also show that you take part in the event to gain knowledge, not just to satisfy everyone with your invitations.
Author: Wojciech Drewczyński
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