3 ways to get the most out of virtual networking

by | Apr 10, 2021 | Business conversations, Business Development for Advisories, Networking

Whether you are forced to find virtual ways to continue business development, client communication and outreach during continued Covid-19 restrictions, or you just want to find new ways of working that save you time, professional people are now finding ways to make virtual networking effective. Here are 3 key ways you can get the most out of this format.

1. Plan for an effective virtual conversation

Many of us are growing weary of video calls… but some have mastered the art and are finding the benefits include more purposeful, shorter conversations, saved time and money going out to meet a new connection, and the opportunity to reach more people in one day.

Plan ahead to ensure an enjoyable, quality conversation that gets results:

  • Plan for Connection: With the awkwardness of saying hello and starting a conversation and the reduced visual cues we get on screen, it’s necessary to work a little harder to connect with someone new when doing so virtually. Ensuring you are facing the person (if working with two screens), occasionally glancing at the green dot to make ‘eye contact’, and turning up the wattage on your smile go a long way to connecting. Making the effort to minimise distracting elements like tech issues, poor lighting, moving fake backgrounds and interruptions/ambient noise can make a big difference to the quality of your contact’s experience – so show you are thinking of them!
  • Plan for Conversation Flow and Effectiveness: To make your online conversation worthwhile and enjoyable, you need to keep it short (most prefer a maximum of 30 minutes) and purposeful. Somewhere between a meeting with an agenda and a free-flowing conversation is what you should aim for in a virtual coffee. So, have some quality questions prepared, do your research on the person beforehand so you have some context and connection points, and agree on a loose aim for the conversation before you start.

2. Leverage online events and webinars you attend

What can you do before, during and after attending an online networking event, to get the most out of it? 

  • The challenge is that most online events professional people attend are formatted as webinars, with limited opportunities to interact – you sit through a bunch of slides, comfortably muted with video remaining off, and maybe ask a question in the chat. In these situations: Is there someone you would like to meet on the speaking panel, from the hosting organisation, or even commenting in the chat? The webinar can be the perfect way to connect as you engage around the content, soon after the session.
  • Or, if you enjoy communicating in writing with your clients and contacts – can you create your own synopsis of key take-aways from the webinar and share with existing relevant contacts? This keeps you top of mind while adding value and demonstrating that you are thinking of them.

Read on below for Tip #3

3. Keep your virtual events simple to make them effective and easy to execute

A great way to stay visible, connect with new and old contacts regularly and demonstrate your expertise is to hold regular online events of your own. But when busy professional service businesses try to do too much… they quickly become overwhelmed with the workload involved and conclude that it is not worth it for the return in value. Yet, the value in holding events – in person or virtual – comes from consistency over time: sending the message that you are here, you are talking about this subject matter, and you can help. ROI also comes from what you do before, during and after the event to get the most out of it in terms of building connections.

“…sending the message that you are here, you are talking about this subject matter, and you can help.”

 If you create a simple format, such as a short Q&A chat set up as a virtual meeting or live session on social media, or a short information session set up as a webinar, you can minimise the time spent preparing and focus on how you will engage and follow-up afterwards. If you prioritise making the online event short, dynamic, relevant and high-energy, people will enjoy it and keep an eye out for the next one.