25 Oct Eight Tricks for Virtual Networking During COVID
by Crisy Meschieri
1. Actually Attend!
This may seem like a silly thing to say, but if you don’t take the time to attend events, then you’ll never network. Life can sometimes get in the way, but adding events to your calendar and making them a priority will help you make sure you don’t miss them. Make a list of topics you are interested in, search for online groups offering learning sessions or social gatherings, and register for one or two of them. Take note of the items you enjoy the best and see if the host group has similar upcoming events.
- Register for sessions or events you are interested in
- Don’t over commit, be knowledgeable of your time constraints
- Add events to your calendar and set reminders not to miss them
- See if these groups offer multiple sessions or events
2. Be Courteous
This is especially true when you’re attending an open discussion session. Be conscious of how much time you’re speaking. Are you dominating the conversation? If there is an awkward pause, ask your fellow attendees a question rather than filling the time with more personal stories.
- Keep your answers short
- Don’t dominate the conversation
- Ask questions if you feel the need to talk
3. Stay Relevant
If someone asks you a question, be sure to answer it concisely and avoid going off on tangents. Also, don’t ask huge or off-topic questions at the end of sessions. This is huge. It’s just like walking into a store right as they are about to close. No one wants this, and it makes you seem rude/inconsiderate.
- Answer concisely
- Stay on topic
- Try to avoid tangents
- Avoid asking questions when the session is wrapping up
4. Be Professional
These are still professional events; treat them that way! Be polite, and consider your word choice. Think about your facial expressions. Remember, if you are muted/unmuted before muttering things under your breath. Be sure to dress professionally. Think to yourself; would you wear this if you attended in person?
- Consider word choice
- Keep your facial expressions in mind
- Mute yourself if you are not currently speaking
- Dress professionally
5. Consider Your Environment
What do you have in your background? Is it giving off a wrong impression? Consider turning on background filters to mask or hide the background if you can’t physically change it. If you’re worried, try turning on your camera before a virtual event to see what fellow attendees will be viewing from your camera. And remember, you can turn your video off if you feel uncomfortable or shy!
- Have a professional background
- Consider turning off your video
- Please mute if you have noisy background sounds
If you have an idea for a topic or networking session but you don’t see it anywhere; find a group and offer to run the event with them. Serving as a presenter helps you give back to your community and allows folks to contact you directly for networking opportunities. If you prefer attending events, you can offer to help promote upcoming events for online groups. In general, volunteering with a professional organization is a great way to form connections with professionals not only in your industry but in your community as well.
- Help run an online session with an existing professional group
- Offer to help promote their upcoming events
- Volunteer with a professional group in general
7. Attend Small or New Groups
Small groups will give you a greater chance to connect directly with fellow attendees. Larger, more popular webinars/sessions can be great, but harder to stand out in the crowd. The benefit of 2020 is that *everyone* is going virtual, and you can attend groups from anywhere in the world. Spend some time looking into professional groups that were too far from you before but have now shifted to virtual settings.
- Small groups = closer connections
- Look into groups in other cities/industries
- Connect with online communities (ex: Behance, Dribbble, Facebook groups, etc.)
8. Send a Thank-You Email
If the speaker has included their contact info, consider sending them a thank you message/email. They put a lot of time putting together the event/presentation for you, so a short thank you will go a long way. It will also encourage them to host similar events again in the future. If you send an email and would like to ask them something, don’t be super needy and ask a million questions. Try to include just one question at most, and make it relevant to something they presented.
- Remember, fellow humans are running this
- Thank them for their time
- Don’t be too needy, one (relevant!) question at most
Bonus #9. Have fun!
Let’s be honest. 2020 has been a challenging year—for all of us! But knowing that is kind of refreshing, as this is happening to everyone in the world. With that in mind, just remember to have fun connecting with other folks. See which avenues you are most drawn to, whether it’s online forums, social media apps, open discussion meetups, or virtual webinar presentations. Use these networking platforms as a way to make genuine connections, and know that it may take a few tries before you find a group that you really connect with! At the end of the day, you got this.
- See which networking platform works best for you: social media, message boards, open discussion meetups, webinar presentations
- Keep trying until you find a platform/group that you connect with
- One genuine connection is worth more than a thousand superficial connections.
Crisy Meschieri is a freelance graphic designer specializing in branding, advertising, and illustration. She runs her weekly group, Designers Corner, and attends as many online events as she can. These tips and tricks are ones that she’s learned over the years from being both an attendee and a presenter. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to connect: instagram.com/zacrizy