By Jennifer Deerr, K2D Strategies
Conferences and educational sessions (including those sponsored by DMFA!) are an important part of professional growth and provide great opportunities for networking. But with social distancing rules in place and uncertainty to when they will end, many conferences and networking opportunities are moving online. How can you make the most of these experiences?
Networking is about expanding your reach, meeting new people, and making meaningful connections. Virtual networking requires a little more planning and action on your part, but it can be just as effective, and sometimes even fun.
- Instead of running into someone at the coffee stand or at a social event, try sending them an email or a message on LinkedIn. “I was looking forward to running into you at the conference; I hope you don’t mind me reaching out…” is a great way to break the ice.
- Engage or re-engage your current relationships and don’t be afraid to ask for introductions and referrals.
- While on virtual seminars/sessions, turn off distractions and participate. There is no better way to put yourself out there than to share your insights or ask a question.
- Join the conversation on social media. Many event sponsors will create hashtags for participants to use on Twitter and Facebook pages, where you can discover ideas and learn from the experiences of other attendees. You may even end up with a few new friends or followers.
- Make yourself easy to find. Consider changing your screen name on video seminars/sessions to your email address so people know how to contact you. And, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile with contact information.
- Pay attention to who is asking interesting questions and sharing thoughtful comments. These are the people you want to get to know! Use the session you were both attending as a lead-in to start a conversation.
- Reduced (or free!) registration costs and the absence of travel expenses may mean you are able to participate in conferences you previously would not have been able to attend. Take the opportunity to try something new and meet a whole new network of people.
- Finally, don’t be discouraged if you reach out but don’t hear back right away. With working from home and lots of schedules temporarily turned upside down, you can’t expect an immediate reply.
We all hope to get back to “normal” sooner than later, but there’s a very good chance that our new normal will include a lot more virtual meetings and networking than it used to. So, get out there and make the most of it!