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Virtual Networking at an Online Conference

The shift to online interactions has forced us to be creative as we connect with one another. Many conferences have moved to virtual events. In the absence of convention halls to bump into colleagues, participants must be intentional to foster and renew professional relationships. Here are three steps to have real interactions at a virtual conference:

Think ahead. Plan to reach out in advance to those you would normally see at a conference. Email to ask colleagues if they are attending and what sessions they are looking forward to. These email interchanges offer the opportunity to catch up and reconnect ahead of the conference.

Host a virtual event. Instead of lamenting the limits of a virtual conference, offer a solution. Host a virtual coffee break or happy hour outside the conference schedule. In video platforms, interactions often have to be more structured, so plan to ask each participant to share one thing they learned or explore a platform that can facilitate break-out rooms. If a full-scale event feels out of reach, at least make a point to schedule phone calls with 2-3 people you would’ve caught up with during the conference.

Foster dialogue. Share value by helping your fellow attendees process the content of the conference together. Send a few emails asking colleagues what their key take-aways and explaining the insights you gleaned.