Working the Room Online: Tools to Expand Your Network Virtually

Aug 31, 2020

by Deanna Parkton

Attending networking events is a great way to connect with professionals and expand your knowledge related to your industry. When you think of networking events, you may immediately think of breakfast meetings or happy hours to schmooze and chat with like minded professionals. Due to Covid-19, the availability of networking events online rather than in-person has skyrocketed, also due of course to increased convenience and accessibility. With an event being held online, more people are able to attend without the need to commute to the event before or after the workday. With time being one of the most valuable resources, networking online from the comfort of your own home or office is a huge win! 

 

Online networking events can take the form of meet-ups, seminars, workshops and even job fairs.

 

  • To find out about events that might be a good fit for you, search topics in your industry on Meetup.com or search for professional organizations at CareerOneStop. Many professional organizations host events by industry. 

 

  • If you are job searching, you can attend recruiting events online! Job fairs can be found by using sites such as National Career Fairs, Jobfairsin.com or other targeted online searches.  Be sure to also keep an eye on companies that you are interested in, they may host their own informational events about hiring and recruiting. Follow them on LinkedIn or check out the Careers page on their website. 

 

It can feel intimidating entering an online event where you might not know what to expect. No fear – there is often a host that welcomes attendees to the event and explains how the event will be structured. This will help you best strategize how to proceed and leverage the professionals attending the event. 

 

Working The Room

 

The key to taking advantage of online events is active participation. This way, if you follow up with a professional from the event, they will be more likely to remember you! Being an active participant in an online event can mean participating via video or using the text chat feature where you can interact with the group at large or one-on-one with other attendees. Some events might even include features in which attendees can video chat in small groups. 

 

  • Turn your video on! It might be tempting to just use the voice feature and stay hidden from video, but people will be most likely to engage with you and remember you if they see a face with your name. 
  • Introduce yourself. If the presenter allows time for attendees to introduce themselves on video, take advantage of it. Otherwise, be sure to share your name and what brought you to the event via the Chat feature. No need to wait for an invitation to do so via chat from the presenter, go ahead and take the initiative to share. Others will surely follow.
  • Ask questions and/or share insights in the chat during the event. This will encourage a dialogue that will benefit the event at large, and also encourage others to engage with you. 
  • Use the available features on the platform. More and more software platforms are being developed to mimic the feel of an in-person event online. Sites like Remo have implemented capabilities that allow users to move around a virtual room and from table to table to video chat with a variety of professionals. 

 

With technology that provides the ability to meet the same goals of in-person events, it is no wonder that more people are heading online to utilize events to build and leverage a network.

 

Take The Connection Forward 

 

You can use LinkedIn to find professionals from the event to connect with and stay in touch for possible advice or to even find out about future opportunities. Consider looking up some of the attendees’ names and send a connection request with a relevant note based on the event. Some attendees will even share their profile in the chat with an invitation for others to connect with them. Be a trailblazer – if you share your profile link, others are sure to follow. It is a great way to build a sense of community within the event and moving forward. What a win-win! 

 

No Event in Sight? Network Anyway! 

 

You do not have to wait for an online event to network online. While events are a great way to get introduced to other professionals in your field, you can use online platforms to find professionals you have not yet “met.” LinkedIn has some handy search options such as searching by company to see a list of professionals who work at the company or using your alma mater’s LinkedIn page to view Alumni (hint – use the keyword to filter down by job titles to target your search). 

 

Another online platform that can be useful in finding professionals to connect with is Slack, a business communication platform. While many companies use Slack internally for employee to employee connection, there are many Slack communities based on industry that are networking hubs. Slofile has a database of Slack communities across industries. 

 

For ideas on how to make the most of the connections that you meet and taking the conversation to the next level, check out our blog about The New Normal of Networking. While networking can feel like an uphill battle, taking initiative to make conversation and request advice from others goes a long way. It not only is a huge benefit to your own career path, you are able to showcase your stellar interpersonal skills. 

 

For more ideas on how you can network online, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to make new connections and leverage your network. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here. 

 

Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at workinglivingwell@gmail.com. 

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