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Online events have been growing in popularity for years—eliminating obstacles for working parents and other professionals who can’t swing a week away from home at a hotel. And now, while we are learning to find a new normal while protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19, everything is changing, including events.

Virtual events may seem awkward at first, but they have some serious advantages. One major perk? You connect and learn instantly with others wherever they are. Online you can cut through the small talk and the coffee lines and interact in meaningful ways. 

Online events are also more interactive—instead of sitting quietly and listening to the speaker—you can listen while you submit questions to the speaker and chat in real-time with other event attendees.

If you’re still trying to navigate the new normal conference, you aren’t alone. In this blog, I help you navigate, network, and make an impact at your next digital event:

Pinpoint your goals before the event.

It’s more important than ever to go into conferences with a plan. When you’re attending digital conferences you don’t have the same organic opportunities to run into others while you grab a coffee, wait in line, or peruse booths and networking happy hours. 

It’s important to define your goals in advance, including who you want to connect with during the virtual conference so you can engage them effectively and deliberately. If you’re looking to spark a new professional connection (or five) be sure to make a list of the key contacts you want to introduce yourself to and drop them a line on LinkedIn beforehand.

Outline your goals in detail beforehand whether you’re planning on exchanging contact details, introducing yourself to five new contacts, or researching organizations in your industry. Make a list so you can stay laser-focused.

Make your presence known—beforehand. 

Gaining more visibility at your virtual event means letting your professional community know that you’re participating. Share with your network on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social mediums to see who else is going—use the official event hashtags so you can filter and find colleagues or professionals you’d like to meet. Have a website? Make sure your homepage shares your upcoming attendance along with a link for visitors who might want to register.

Drop your connections a line beforehand to see if they’re attending or know about the event. You can get your professional community involved, and events—even virtual ones—are all about community.

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

Block out your calendar and make sure you’re prioritizing the sessions that matter and the opportunities to engage with your peers and thought leaders throughout the community. That means not just being online, but being present and distraction-free—find a quiet Netflix-free corner in your home office where you can focus with a notepad to jot down takeaways. 

While you’re attending sessions online, use the chat and other networking tools to interact with other attendees, including connecting with those on your list.

Share your insights with others.

Virtual conferences are a great time to learn and to highlight your own experience. By targeting sessions, you can engage with peers and presenters using your event applications and chats to actively participate in the live Q&A while sharing deep insights. 

You don’t want to create a distraction, but having one question or comment ready for each session can keep you involved in the dialogue.

Trade intel and resources.

Knowledge is power and also another form of social currency. Networking events are the perfect setting for sharing blogs, articles, eBooks, videos, and other whitepapers with other attendees via event message boards and group chats. It’s also a great place to discover new resources you haven’t consumed yet!

Join virtual hangouts.

Some events kick off the conference with a Google hangout, Zoom mixer, or another virtual pre-event meetup. These pre-event engagements let you get to know others in the professional community while having more of a casual exchange than you can have during the actual conference sessions.

Follow up with your new connections.

You need to stay in front of your expanded network while your top-of-mind after the event, just like you would after attending a conference onsite. Within the first three business days following the event, drop the new connections LinkedIn invites or thank you messages, find them on other social platforms, and set up meetings with those you wanted to re-connect with “offline.”

Now you’re ready.

You know how to tap all the potential out of your next virtual event—time to start filling your calendar with the right ones. I hope you’ll join us June 25th for Forge: Supply Chain presented by the Procurement Foundry in partnership with Let’s Talk Supply Chain. The live, one-day event is all about supply chain and includes Slack chats and Zoom meetings for maximum collaboration and engagement. Learn more and register here.

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