Skip the Standard In-Person Agenda
“People continue to try and force in-person thinking into online agendas,” said Brandt Krueger, technical producer, consultant, and educator, Event Technology Consulting. “You can’t dump 200+ people in a video chat and think they’ll get any networking done.”
Instead, Brandt recommended downsizing groups and changing up the rotation. “A cocktail party in the real world may have 100-200 people in it, but they’re spread out, and the good ones will offer areas where people can break off in groups of five or so to chat. You can’t have a conversation with more than about five or six people in an online breakout group, so keep networking groups small, and rotate them at comfortable intervals.”
Dedicate Time to Working the Event
While there may be a strong temptation to multitask during networking portions of virtual events, get the most out of the event by setting aside dedicated time to connect with other attendees.
Giving your complete focus allows you to be more engaged and get more value from the experience, making it easier to connect with others genuinely.
Start By Asking a Question
One simple way to get started connecting with other attendees is, to begin with, a question, said James Morgan, Ph.D., CSEP, Founder of Event Tech Lab. “Simply ask a question related to the event content or make an observation about one of their social media posts from LinkedIn or another social channel.”
James added that you can make the question even more targeted by looking up the person you want to talk to and doing some quick research.
Keep Body Language Friendly and Open
When F2F, friendly, open body language signals that you are relaxed, trustworthy, and happy to talk.
But when it comes to virtual formats of audio-only or on-camera, dynamics are different. Good virtual etiquette always applies. But beyond that:
- Maintain good eye contact with the camera. Don’t overdo it, but look directly into the camera as if that is the person you’re speaking with.
- Stand or sit up straight, but don’t stiffen your back. Push your chest out slightly and keep your head up. Good posture signals confidence.
- Use a genuine smile, both in your voice and on your face. If you speak as if you’re smiling, the overall tone is more upbeat – creating a positive tone that is welcoming even when virtually. And when we smile naturally, our eyes crease slightly at the corners. Practice this in a mirror, so it comes just as easily when on camera.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Whether it’s F2F or digital, there are always introverts who don’t find it easy to start a conversation. Corbin suggested acknowledging the challenge and finding ways to step out of your comfort zone. “While it might seem a bit uncomfortable, the best way to learn more about who is in the digital room with you is simply to approach them and start a conversation!”