So far, 2020 has doled out its fair share of punches. Fortunately, business owners across the country are fighting back and going above and beyond to keep their operations afloat. They have adjusted and adapted to the current environment quicker than many expected. While many employees are still working from home, and many are not willing to travel, networking with prospects and peers face-to-face has become a difficulty. To overcome this obstacle, virtual networking opportunities have exploded over the past few months.

The thought of networking with strangers online might seem overwhelming. Whether you are a conference attendee or an exhibiting vendor, here are some tips on how to virtual network successfully. As long as you are prepared and know what to expect, you can easily succeed in this new environment.

Plan Ahead

Similar to a fact to face networking event, having a plan of attack ahead of the virtual event is essential. Prepare a list of key people you want to engage with and topics you wish to discuss. Most conferences have attendance lists available before the event commencing, make sure to request it and highlight individuals you think will add value to your business, or you’d like to add as a customer.

Planning also involves preparing for the virtual meeting. You will need a laptop or a mobile phone with a good camera if possible. Your internet should also be fast enough to keep up with live communications. You don’t want to finally have the opportunity to interact with one of your key people, and then your connection freezes. Finally, don’t forget to dress professionally in case you engage in a video call.

Make Connections

Virtual networking is your opportunity to meet people within the same industry and in a similar position. They are also experiencing the same current challenges as your business. By making connections within your industry, you gain valuable insight into current trends and valuable opportunities.

To meet new people and form better business relationships, you will need to step out of your comfort zone. If you have been a wallflower during previous networking events, now is the time to step up your game. For shy people, virtual networking can help a person blossom by taking away the anxiety of approaching a person, in person. You both took time out your day to attend the same virtual event, and you both work in the same industry – take the initiative to reach out. Sharing ideas and experiences vastly helps both individuals grow. Be professional, be present, and work to make every conversation meaningful.

Actively Participate

To make the most of your virtual networking event, be an active participant. Most conferences have live Q&A sessions. Engage the presenters – you never know who is listening and interested in your point of view, ultimately leading to a profitable business relationship.

Remember to be yourself and be respectful of dissenting opinions. The goal here is not to gain the most “likes”, but to develop and foster essential business relationships. Be inquisitive. If you have always wanted to learn more about a particular topic being presented, this is your opportunity. Being an active participant shows your level of care and involvement for your industry and also goes a long way to help your business succeed.

Be Social

It should go without saying, a vital purpose of a virtual event is to be social. After all the engaging sessions and impactful chats, it can be easy to let things fall to the wayside. Don’t let this happen to you! Reach out to people after the event. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to develop and foster your business relationships. Social media sites can keep you abreast of fresh ideas from others in the same industry, as well as provide further opportunities to engage people online.

The benefits of social networking are far-reaching. As it is currently almost impossible to attend a face to face event due to COVID-19, virtual conferences are not going anywhere, anytime soon. The adjustment to a virtual experience can be daunting. Use the above tips to prepare yourself for a successful and impactful networking event.