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How to network at a virtual conference

January 26, 2023

Few people could have foreseen that virtual conferencing would come into a world of its own in 2020. Attending a virtual conference is now one of the many ‘new normals’. As many 2020 events have moved online, it's necessary to make the most of them so that we get the benefits previously derived from in-person events. In many ways, virtual conferencing is similar to attending a physical event. The same preparation is worthwhile: research who is exhibiting, make a note of the sessions and seminars you’d like to attend and always follow up with new contacts post-event. These processes are not exclusive to in-person events; they are just as critical for a virtual conference. However, it’s the actual experience of a virtual conference where a lot has changed.

In preparation for this year’s Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference, we share our top tips on how to network at a virtual conference.

1.    Research the speakers and exhibitors you’d be interested in connecting with

Researching the speakers and exhibitors that you’d like to connect with at a physical event is good practice. It is no different for virtual conferences and exhibitions. Use Google or LinkedIn to research people you’d like to introduce yourself to. This step is even more important virtually as the chance of ‘bumping’ into people has disappeared. Hashtags are a great way to find out who is attending. Search and follow the event's hashtag so you can engage with other attendees' content prior to the event. You can even connect with them prior to the event. Just make sure that you include an introductory note to make the connection more personable.

2.    Audience participation is paramount during a virtual conference

There’s usually an awkward silence in a conference where people ask if there are questions from the audience. In a virtual environment, this is even more the case. Engage with the conversation whenever possible. This could be during the seminar's chatroom, offering up insightful comments or asking questions during the audience Q&A portion. Not only will this help facilitate discussion, but it also brings awareness to your professional expertise and that of your company.

Break the ice with other attendees by acknowledging the different format: “This is unexpected, isn’t it! How are you finding it?”

3.    Remember that everyone is in the same situation

No one expected 2020’s events and networking to suddenly be conducted from our computer monitors. Everyone is experiencing this newfound feeling of unfamiliarity. Use this to your advantage by connecting with people. Break the ice with other attendees by acknowledging the different format: “This is new, isn’t it! How are you finding the talks?” A common experience is a great leveller and conversation starter at a virtual conference.

4.    Be familiar with the virtual platform before the start of the event

It’s daunting enough to deal with virtual conferences and exhibitions, let alone getting to grips with new technology. Spend some time on the virtual conferencing platform prior to the event to get to know the layout and how it works. There may even be tutorials on the event’s website to help guide you through. If you’re also attending the LMA this month, you can find their tutorials here.

Spend some time on the virtual conferencing platform before the event to get to know the layout and how it works.

5.    Prepare your elevator pitch for pre-seminar waiting room moments

Having an elevator pitch prepared is a tried and tested business strategy for those fleeting moments of introduction to a new contact. One of the benefits of the virtual setting is the ability to prepare different versions to refer to in that moment. This preparation saves a great deal of time and stress, instead of trying to think up an introduction spontaneously. Equally, it gives you the opportunity to succinctly introduce your professional experience and your organisation’s offering. Confidence in your delivery helps make you more memorable to other attendees.

6.    Remember to visit exhibitors in their virtual booths.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences is for exhibitors. Virtual booths aim to replicate traditional stands. However, it is no longer possible to bump into contacts in the corridors. Have catch-up coffees. Visit a variety of stands. Do look at the exhibitor list and book appointments with those who could make a difference to your firm.

Look at the exhibitor list and book appointments with those who could make a difference to your firm.

Virtual conferences and exhibitions are still worthwhile events to attend. They provide the opportunity to connect with those in your industry and learn the latest sector-related developments. All you need to do is tweak a few of your tactics. We hope that these tips will help you navigate the uncharted territory that is virtual networking and make the most of this year’s LMA conference.

Kidd Aitken is exhibiting at this year’s Legal Marketing Association's Annual Conference, with co-founding director Daniel Kidd in attendance. If you would like to book some time with him in advance, you can do so here. We look forward to welcoming you to discuss how Kidd Aitken can help your firm climb the legal directory rankings.

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