By: Connie Wildeman, MPA
You hear from me every year (whether you realize it or not) about why attending a face-to-face meeting like the Annual NSH Symposium/Convention is the best way to network. That message comes through in marketing emails you receive, including fun quizzes and emails with networking tips – all customized by me to get you thinking about the meeting. But this year, like everyone else living the “COVID-Life”, I have had to start looking at things differently. Now, I am not saying that I would ever trade in those amazing chats that I have with many of you at the registration desk, or the Awards Reception, or even just passing by in the hotel lobby – but what I am suggesting is that we don’t have to fit the virtual networking experience into the same box as the in-person networking experience. We would be silly to try, but we can leverage this new platform of engagement to reach the same networking goals of making new connections and establishing ourselves as experts.
So here are my top tips for virtual chat box networking, based on research and my first-hand experience successfully making online, professional connections.
Jump In - Whether you are in a session or visiting the exhibit hall, there will be lots of opportunity to network via the chat box. You may find a really great discussion on troubleshooting happening and want to jump in…so do it! In fact, jumping in on a chat is probably easier than if you were to pass by a group of people talking and “overhear” the discussion. Take advantage of this open communication platform and share your knowledge.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Short - What’s harder than trying to fit a square peg in a circular hole…trying to fit everything you might say in an in-person conversation into an active chat box. Seriously, the chat box only has so much space so if you really have a lot to say on a subject – share your most valuable insight or tip, and then offer to chat with anyone after the session in more detail. I have honestly made many important connections in the virtual space this way.
Follow Up! - If someone offers to chat with you later or provides you their email to follow up with them at a different time, send that email ASAP. Not only are you showing them that you appreciate their offer for help, but the virtual chat will be fresh in their minds and they will be more likely to help you. And don’t forget to follow them on social media, like LinkedIn, or even the Convention App. Some of those connections have lasted the longest for me!
Don't forget to register for NSH's Virtual Symposium/Convention, taking place October 13-15th. Register by August 14th to take advantage of the early bird discount!