Amid COVID-19, in-person events and conferences have quickly made the pivot to offer virtual conferences and events. The shift to move ahead has allowed speakers the chance to present their panels through videoconferencing platforms. Attendees may watch from home — or in their home office.
However, networking at a virtual conference is not quite the same as being at an in-person event. Attendees don’t have the chance to mingle by an open bar after a presentation is over. There are no business cards to pass out. There’s not even the chance to turn to the person sitting next to you and make an introduction. Is it possible to truly network at a virtual conference?
The answer is yes. Entrepreneurs simply need to get creative with their networking approach. Planning to attend a virtual conference in the coming weeks or months? Here’s how you can make the most out of attending and networking with the event’s attendees.
Prioritize what you want to get out of the virtual conference
Entrepreneurs planning to attend a virtual conference or summit need to commit to, and prioritize, the event. Here are a few ways you can keep the conference top of mind.
- Purchase the passes, or ticket packages, for the event ahead of time. The virtual conference may offer individual passes as well as group passes for entrepreneurs that wish to have their teams attend the event.
- Begin reviewing the conference’s speaker lineup. Who is speaking that you want to make sure you hear? Who else is presenting a keynote that you would like to learn more about? The great part of a virtual conference is that, unlike an in-person conference, there are not lines to join and wait in between conferences to view different speakers. You have the ability to easily join one videoconference and hop over to the next one without any wait time in between.
- Time block your schedule accordingly for the panels you plan on attending. Note in Outlook and/or Google Calendar the times and dates for the conference’s panels. Set alarms to remind you when they’re 10 minutes out from beginning so you have enough time to wrap up a task and join in.
Watch where attendees are posting via social
Virtual conference registration tends to be accompanied by a list of social media platforms where the conference has a presence. There should also be an event hashtag that attendees are encouraged to use. This works to show you the insights gleaned from the conference and which individuals are part of that conversation.
This is one of the easiest ways to network during a virtual conference. Let’s say you’re watching a keynote about marketing trends in the time of COVID-19. You have a tab open on Twitter tracking the event’s hashtag. Suddenly, you notice other event attendees are tweeting about this panel. They’re also watching it, too!
You can like their tweets, retweet them, or better yet, comment in agreement and share that you are also watching this keynote. This type of engagement gives you the chance to start a conversation with another attendee. You may briefly engage now, follow each other’s respective social media accounts, and continue to network together after the conference is over.
Keep an eye out for engaged attendees on social media sites — in and out of the same panels you attend.
Go to the event’s virtual happy hour
Yes, really! Some virtual conferences go out of their way with opportunities to network once the panel is over. Some of these may include yoga events, breakfast sessions, and happy hours — all conducted through virtual videoconferences of course.
While you will have to provide your own beverage at a virtual happy hour, this is a great way to network through Zoom and have fun with the event’s attendees. Virtual happy hours usually have a host for the event. They’ll engage viewers in a fun quiz with the chance to win prizes.
Remember to stay until the end! If the virtual conference lasts a few days, the host might wrap it up with a high-profile musician. You’ll finish the event on a high note and look forward to the conference next year — whether it’s held in-person or virtually.