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How to Make Virtual Conferences Work for You

How to make virtual conferences work for you

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It’s a poorly kept secret that the best networking and closing that happens at conferences and trade shows is in the hallways and over the tray of mini muffins – not in the sessions. Now that virtual conferences are the norm, how can ambitious sales and marketing professionals network without the handshakes? How can brands build awareness without the booths? Just as remote work has a learning curve, so does remote networking.

 

Unleash went virtual with a short delay in May and is planning virtual summer events. Software sales and marketing event SaaSter Annual was bumped to September and moved online. Even Salesforce’s epic flagship event Dreamforce, which is in November, will take place online this year. Content Marketing World is still on the ticket for October in Ohio but its entire program will be available online, even if the in-person event goes ahead.

 

Networking at conferences is just one way to advance your career. Chatting with a recruiter is another. Get in touch.

Creative Ways to Make Your Mark in Remote Networking

The key to effective brand-building and networking in a digital space is to appreciate that while the audience may be the same, the technologies create different opportunities. Unlike at an in-person event, where the best you can hope for is some whispered hellos in the half-dark over dry chicken sandwiches, there are a multitude of ways you can engage with conference content delivered digitally. Frequently, there’s a session chat where you can ask insightful questions, find interesting people to talk with, and share your relevant experience. Then there’s the conversation happening over Twitter hashtags, which is usually livelier than the official chat.

“This is a great opportunity to set up informational interviews with leaders at companies you want to work for, build your network, create interest in your company’s product or service, and learn more about how others have navigated their careers.”

Unlike being one of few virtual attendees at a big in-person conference, feeling like you’re missing half the story and all the fun, everyone is working remotely right now and we’re all figuring out how to network virtually. That means the people you want to talk with might be more accessible and receptive than usual to a one-on-one chat. This is a great opportunity to set up informational interviews with leaders at companies you want to work for, build your network, create interest in your company’s product or service, and learn more about how others have navigated their careers.

Swagger, Not Swag

Did you have plans to exhibit your product at a trade fair? The good news is you can probably spend a fraction of what it would cost for a booth, collateral, swag, flights and time for your team on an email or ad campaign targeted at attendees. The key is to distill your company’s offer beyond the 5,000 LED keyrings you were expecting to offload and shoot your shot in a thoughtful, digital-first play.

“Find out beforehand if there are Slack channels associated with specific sessions where you can make connections with like-minded professionals, or if there are sessions specifically devoted to networking.”

What is it worth for you to get 1,000 new email subscribers instead of 1,500 flyers stuffed into a bag that most likely only made it back to the hotel room? What about replacing those casual trade hall presentations with qualified, real, live lead-on-the-line demos?

Preparation is Vital to Virtual Conference Success

Just like seasoned networking pros have a hitlist of people they want to connect with in person, you should prepare your own list of targets ahead of the virtual event. Whether your goal is nurturing leads or making connections to further your career, having a solid plan will help you identify and seize the opportunities when they arise. Find out beforehand if there are Slack channels associated with specific sessions where you can make connections with like-minded professionals, or if there are sessions specifically devoted to networking. 

 

Connecting with people around an online event leverages many of the same skills you would use in person – sometimes it just involves a little creative thinking.