Virtual Networking Events – My Reflections
The world has moved to virtual networking; and it looks like it will be here to stay. I personally like it, as there is no more driving to a venue through traffic, parking up, and horrible sweaty, or bone crunching handshakes to put up with.
Are there differences, though? This article is based purely on my experiences.
- People seem to be better timewise; mostly showing up earlier than the start time of the meeting. Possibly it is due to those handy 15 minute reminders, but it could also be due to not having to fight through traffic, queues and park up. I like this. The benefits of this are we can start earlier, which leaves more time for networking, or we can finish earlier.
- I get to meet MORE people virtually than I do face to face. Not that numbers of people I meet is important, however I have noticed that in breakout rooms, and even in the main room, I get to meet more people.
- People seem to be more natural with their elevator pitch. Maybe because we avoid the awful creeping death that happens at some events, as your turn winds its way around the table. My experience is that people seem to take less time speaking, and get to the point a lot more quickly than at face to face events. Is this due to being more relaxed at home?
- Presenters seem to prepare more than at face to face events – I was impressed with one presenter, who had clearly asked for the list of attendees, and had tailored their presentation to us.
Points still to learn, and please add your own thoughts in the comments:
- Do let people know if there are to be introductions. I was at a Saturday event, and when the host asked us to draw an emoji of how we feel, and use this in our introduction, one person wrote in the chat “I hate these kind of icebreakers, so I am leaving…”, and they did! At face to face, events we often have a co-host who takes people through the format of the event, and I think virtual networking could benefit from this, too. It does help settle your nerves.
- Have your camera on. If there is a reason why you can’t have your camera on, or you are ‘screen tired’, then do let people know. I tend to prefer not to stare at the screen, so I explain that in my introduction. I was at an event when someone had their camera off, yet they spoke a lot. I personally found it disconcerting. This might be my communication bias, however, the way I look at it is that you wouldn’t attend a face to face event with a paper bag over your face. Or would you?
- Do let people know if you are taking a screen shot to put out on social media. The first virtual networking event I attended, the host just snapped a screenshot, and then tagged me in on their Linkedin post. Such a shame that I was pulling a face when she took the shot – NOT my best look!
- It’s also rather boring having screen shot after screen shot on social media to advertise your event. I don’t know why, as pictures of at face to face events, such as around a table, or eating breakfast or lunch, is also rather dull. What are better ideas?
- At an event I hosted, one person stated they would like to be connected with an attendee, as they had a lead for them. This person then contacted me after the event to get the details, which I don’t think would happen face to face. Maybe the giving of business cards seems more natural, but we can use the chat facility, or move into a virtual breakout room to talk shop! It is one of the reasons why we network, after all.
- Change your name on the screen. The name on the screen for a lady I met was Graham…; I’ve also met someone called ‘ipad’, ‘spare ipad’, and someone called ‘Itsy’ at one event. Yet Graham, ipad and Itsy weren’t listed as attendees.
- If you are hosting, send attendee lists if you normally send them on face to face events. It does help with the introductions, and remembering peoples names.
- Mute people when the presentation starts. I attended an event where only 8 turned up, and so the host said it was OK to leave us to mute ourselves. However, we don’t all follow the rules. Shame one participant, who had lots of questions, kept taking calls, talking to her dog, and to herself! Despite mine, and other peoples’ requests, this happened throughout the meeting, which was sad, as the speaker was very entertaining, and working hard. As I was there on my ipad, it meant I kept going to gallery view, as my ipad puts the person who is noisy as the main speaker on the screen. Very annoying!
- Learn small talk. When we get into breakout rooms, think of easy to relate to, and light hearted things to start conversations. At face to face networking events we talk about the drive to the event, traffic, weather, etc. Think about news, TV shows, the weather, projects you are working on, impending events…to break the ice. I attended one breakout room, and the room host didn’t seem to know how to get the conversation going, so I said “What’s a goal you are working on this week?”, and paused. I then said “Shall I tell you one I am working on?”, and told them about the Yoga with Adriene January challenge. We all seemed to relax, and it got the conversation going.
- Don’t dominate the main group. One attendee at an event kept interjecting and going into great detail regarding their issues/needs. Be courteous. If there are 15 people attending an hour long event, and there is a 30 minute presentation, then that doesn’t leave much time for every person to speak!
- Remember to pause and breathe before you speak!
What are your thoughts? I think virtual networking has many benefits. I’d be interested to know what your experiences are.