As with many things this year, networking has had to change and adapt to suit our current climate, meaning that face-to-face meetings at trade shows are prohibited and have either been postponed or instead turned into a virtual event.
We did post a blog a few years back which was a general Guide to Networking, which could still be very useful. However, it makes sense to adapt that blog to the present situation which of course is utilising technology to network instead.
So, let’s start with the first and most obvious step.
Planning & Preparation
It’s important to understand what it is that you want to get out of the event. Why are you attending? Is it to purchase a product? Is it to understand your market better? Is it simply to connect with the key people in your industry? Whatever your reason may be for attending, it is your starting point.
Identify Key People or Businesses
Before the event, you can take a look at the exhibitor or attendee list which is usually publicly available at all trade shows. From this list, you can pin-point the contacts you wish to speak to, who can offer you what it is that you need/want from attending the show.
Make a list of your desired contacts and request meetings with them before the event starts. This means that your networking opportunities are diarised and therefore more likely to happen. There’s nothing worse than attending an event and finding that all your key contacts are busy with other attendees, so don’t let that happen!
Publicise your Attendance
Publicising your attendance at the event on your social media or LinkedIn is a great way of communicating with others. Make use of the event hashtag and comment on other attendees or business posts about the virtual event. You may even find more contacts here that you’d like to speak with.
It’s also good to find out if there is an official group for the event on LinkedIn or other social platforms. Being involved in the discussion is important to get you noticed before-hand. You can also share interesting articles and industry news that others may find beneficial and spark their interest.
Engage in Conversations at the Event
This may be your first time at a virtual event or you may be used to the platform by now, but it’s worth noting that they’re all different. However, what remains the same is the ability to communicate via real-time messaging or on some occasions over video chat. Either way, don’t be shy! It’s easier to jump into a conversation from the comfort of your own home behind your laptop than it is in person, so use the platform to your advantage.
If there are panels and presentations happening that may not be relevant to you, now is not the time to clock-off. There will be others who are in the same position, so make the most of chatting to new people whilst these events are happening.
Ask for Referrals
You may have missed the opportunity to speak with some of your key contacts, however, it’s likely that there are other relevant people along the way who can offer what it is that you wanted to gain from attending the event. By simply engaging in conversations with others, you can ask them if they know anyone within the industry who could be able to help or offer advice. For the most part, people are happy to help out where they can, so asking for referrals could be a great opportunity for you.
The event may now be over but the discussion won’t be. It’s important to stay active in the conversation around the event by engaging on social media, offering your thoughts, feedback, and insights into how you think the event went.
Again, jump into conversations on the event group page or hashtag. Write your own post with your thoughts and tag in those key people asking for their comments. But most importantly of all, follow-up.
Follow-ups are essential. This is the part where all your hard-work can unravel. During the event, hopefully, you made note of all the conversations you had, but also the conversations and meetings that were missed.
Whether you had the chance to speak or not, it’s crucial that you engage with your key contacts and ask them how they found the event. You can touch upon conversations you already had, or if you missed the opportunity, now is the time to catch up with them.
Sharing opinions and ideas about the event allow for warmer relationships to be built. This is the start of regular contact with these individuals, so continuing communication with them will hopefully lead to you gaining even more connections within your industry.
Hopefully, this guide was useful and there are some tips here that you can utilise at your next virtual event. Remember that the hard work isn’t necessarily always during the show. The planning, preparation, and follow-ups are all essential to ensuring you maximise your networking talents.
Good luck and go get ‘em!
Formnext Connect 2020 is around the corner. If you want to set-up a meeting with Kensington Additive then get in touch here.