4 Tips For Virtual Networking At Your Next Online Conference
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Tip #1: Same Goals, New Media - Networking online has the same goals as networking in-person.
A lot of the same rules apply as 2019 or even 2003 when IIBA was founded – just please not on your AOL accounts. Making connections outside of necessity is key: don’t wait until you need something, or until you’re looking for a job. Networking is about getting to know people, finding out their passions and the successes in their current careers. It’s about swapping those stories to create the better connection and understanding what value you can bring to a conversation.
If you attend a virtual conference or event without any networking or engagement element, is it worth your time? The speaker content may be valuable, but they’ve missed the mark by not integrating opportunities to engage.
Tip #2: Leverage Social Media and Virtual Connectivity
It's easy to talk to people during a session, but how do you breach the awkward subject of connecting with them? Do you ask for their phone? Email? LinkedIn? There’s no wrong answer: if you’ve already started talking to someone in a virtual chat like BBC 2020’s Virtual Coffee Roundtables, see if you can exchange an email or LinkedIn profile links (QR codes are easy to screengrab, too). If you’re already communicating with someone via a hashtag, then you have their information and more opportunities to connect with them over similar topics.
If you’re nervous about reaching out to an individual, start with a speaker at a conference or event: their information is usually more readily available, and an easy subject to broach with them is the topic of their online presentation.
Tip #3: Open the Door and Participate (we're all learning together!)
In many sessions I’ve attended, a speaker or one of the virtual networking participants apologized for a little background noise from one of their children taking an online course, having trouble downloading the handouts, or their presentation starting on the wrong monitor. The overwhelming response has always been from the participants that it’s okay! We’re growing together and we all recognize the effort it takes to participate in an online discussion.
Once you’ve turned on that web cam (body language is important!) and you’re talking about something you’re passionate about, it will shine through on camera. In my calls with our Chapters, the calls with cameras turned on have been much more meaningful than those without cameras. It has been so rewarding hearing about opportunities for a larger audience with groups that used to be restricted by a bricks-and-mortar location. For example, our Bluegrass Chapter’s events have a high participation rate from people located far away from the physical Chapter. Why? Because the Chapter opened the door for others to join in on the conversation, the response was overwhelming. Once you’re at a virtual event, we all want to engage, learn, and succeed together; it’s an important lesson to take away from virtual conferences and work in general.
Tip #4: Icebreakers for a Virtual Conference
Google ‘Conference Icebreakers’ and you’ll get a lot of ideas that are just as relevant now as they were live. Talking about your professional goals or interests and keeping your questions open-ended will never go out of style, but what’s new for a virtual conference?
With so many people coming from all around the world for conferences and events, the question ‘where are you from?’ has taken on a whole new meaning.
Ask about and share experiences moving to a virtual environment: we're all feeling the sense of isolation, and understanding the different successes and challenges is important in becoming better at this new normal. For example, my peers in Egypt and South Africa contend with electricity and internet challenges but have thought of innovative solutions like generators to compensate for those virtual challenges.
What does a ‘good’ virtual event for networking look like?
Unstructured Structure for Networking
It’s great to say that we have the same goals with networking, but how do we execute successfully? Virtual events require a built-in avenue for unstructured discussions, but how does this look in action?
Look for online events or conferences with ‘chats’ or some kind of chat function: this can be as simple as creating a hashtag that people can follow on social media, or as elaborate as small breakout discussions on specialized topics via Zoom. We’ve seen a huge movement towards more engagement tools and gamification like polling and team trivia events.
In the case of BBC 2020, Virtual Coffee Roundtables, Practitioner's Chats, and People’s Choice Discussions are about opening the floor for people to discuss and bridging the divide of their virtual environments in Whova via Zoom. We’re using Kahoots as our trivia tool of choice at BBC 2020; you can find out more about our IIBA Trivia Bowl (replacing our 2019 reception) for BBC 2020 and exciting prizes here.
I hope you’ve found something useful in my tips for succeeding at your next virtual conference. Best of luck and see you at BBC 2020!
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About the Author:
Jared loves being a Business Analyst and has done so in title for over 15 years with over 25 years of business leadership experience in both the retail and energy sectors. He is a strong advocate for IIBA, having served in various capacities with the Calgary IIBA Chapter as well as chairing the Volunteer Chapter Network. He brings his passion for business analysis and experience as a Chapter Leader to the role of Director of Chapter and Membership Engagement of IIBA.
He holds his Bachelor of Arts degree in French from the University of Calgary and the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) designation. He will take any chance possible to evangelize business analysis and will talk your ear off about the role and the profession should you allow him to do so.
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