Updated: Jul 30, 2021
The pandemic has changed everything: school, work and, of course networking. Conferences and social events are increasingly held online - through Zoom, Teams or even good old Blackboard (a near-forgotten relic from another time).
Now before you read any further, remember: always treat everyone you encounter with respect, always remember you deserve to be treated similarly and to be there just as much as anyone.
Top Tip #1: WiFi & Power
Keep an eye on that wifi connection. Make sure whatever device you’re using is plugged in. Otherwise, how else will you get to network, you know… online.
#2: Use Social Media Productively
It’s shaping our world - including how we network and interact within industry. You can be on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and there’ll be someone you want to talk to. As well as messaging your fellow people, do not forget to respond when someone reaches out to you.
Tweeting, gramming or linked-ining (?) will start your online presence so make sure you have a profile picture you’re proud of and probably won’t regret. If not, it’ll be a good story.
#3: Bring a Friend Along
Though this works better for in-person networking, having a friend nearby can help make it less anxiety-inducing. Having someone you are comfortable with and know will have your back no matter what does wonders for your confidence!
I’ve always referred to this as ‘having my adult with me’. And my adult usually isn’t interested in the event I’ve asked them to tag along to. They are just my emotional support adult.
#4: Introduce Yourself!
Always introduce yourself and your interests. Online, it may be a bit awkward. Anyone who has participated online can tell you that. The lagging in video, the lagging in audio. Everyone is on the same boat. So take a deep breath, and exercise a little bit of patience when it happens to you.
Quick Note: The lag can be frustrating, acknowledge it. Then just let it happen. There’s not much you can do about it, except ensuring you are on the best Internet connection you have access to.
#5: Do Your Research
If you know who will be at the event, Google! Find out their research areas and interests. Figure out who you want to speak to and come up with a game plan. What will you ask them?
A good way to do this is to write a script for the start of the conversation. E.g. “Hi, I’’m (so-and-so). I’m thinking of doing (this-and-that). I saw you work on (this).”
Have something to say to get the ball rolling.
#6: Follow Up After the Event
Follow up. Follow up whatever networking you have done with an email, or tweet, or a DM. Mention your name, where and when you met them (if you managed to), briefly reference what you spoke about. Ask a question. There’s no point in networking online or in-person, if you don’t maintain contact afterwards.
They may not answer immediately. But they will. It is rare a researcher won’t reply. They love what they do and they’ll love to be able to share what they can with people, including you. You will NOT be a bother or an annoyance so don’t worry about that.
#7: Most Importantly, Try
Try. Showing up to a networking event is the first step. Speaking to someone at the event is the second, equally as scary, step but will help you get the most out of it.
If you don’t start, you’ll never finish.