With more people working remotely and companies scaling back on in-person events, making human connections at a virtual conference more important than ever. As many conferences and conventions switch to virtual events this year, it is important to know that attendees can still have the same enjoyable experience and gain valuable new information (including at our own Netconnect 2023, a completely virtual conference).
For this year’s event, our road trip includes a jam-packed itinerary of HR best practices, information security, and HR leadership training. Advance your professional education with HR-focused sessions led by a diverse lineup of industry experts.
Even aspects that seem impossible virtually—like making real human connections—are not only possible but easy, if you follow these helpful tips for getting the most out of your virtual HR conference experience.
Participation is necessary
The key to making connections at any conference—in-person or virtual—is participation. To really get the most out of the conference experience, virtual conference attendees must be prepared to do it all—classes, panels, breakout sessions, chatrooms, keynotes, networking events, happy hours, etc. This will lead to more meaningful connections with others, including fellow attendees, speakers, sponsors, and hosts.
Attendees must go into a virtual conference with the built-in expectation of participating. This commitment might make some uncomfortable at first, but if you go into it with a pledge to yourself to participate, then you can mentally prepare yourself—and over time, it becomes easier and more comfortable.
Make proper introductions
Introductions are important in any situation, but especially at conferences. Conferences are filled with strangers, or people you only know through business channels. Your introduction should be brief, but impactful. Provide key information about yourself, but make sure to ask about the other person as well. This helps create a more authentic and engaging conversation, rather than a one-sided sales pitch about yourself. When you are confident and genuine in your introductions, you are far more likely to make a lasting impression.
Don’t forget the small talk
At conferences, the purpose of a conversation is not to kill time, but to grow a connection. Studies show that the first seven to nine seconds of an interaction are where true connections are made. If you earn your listener’s interest during that time, people will be more likely to engage further and remember you afterward. Beyond the introduction, the best way to make an impression is to bond over something in common or tell a relatable story. But remember, a human connection should be a give-and-take exchange, not a one-sided indulgence.
Get the most out of chats
Most virtual conferences will offer a chat feature during sessions. This can be tremendously helpful in a large group setting because it gives everyone a chance to contribute to the conversation, ask a question, or make a meaningful comment. It also gives you the opportunity to discover fellow attendees that are worth getting to know based on their questions, comments, or how they contribute to the conversation. The chat can also be a great resource for the speaker to include additional information or expand upon a topic that was only touched on during the presentation.
Connect on social media
Being active on social media during the conference helps build your network, but don’t be an over-poster. Highlight key moments, impactful quotes, and quality photos that show not only what you are doing, but what you are learning and your insights. Craft each post as the beginning of a conversation during human connections. Use the official conference hashtag and interact with the conference’s posts, as well as fellow attendees. Follow other attendees and engage with them during the event and afterward.
Keep connection ongoing
Making a good impression and a connection at conferences takes work, but it’s only the beginning. Post-conference, you need to follow up to keep the momentum going. Send a message to the contacts you made within one week of the event. If you are not already connected on social media, do it now and begin engaging with them online. Strengthen your connection by creating or sharing a resource that other conference attendees might find valuable.
Be open to learning and experiencing new things
Conferences are designed for learning and networking—being virtual does not change that one bit. Learning something new is a beneficial, positive experience—something that is only increased when done in a large group with more perspectives, different experiences, new thoughts, and helpful tips. Conferences are also the perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and make connections with new people in different ways, even virtually.
If you’re ready to experience how great an online conference can be, then join us for Netconnect: A Day at the HR Museum—completely FREE and 100% virtual. A full day of HR best practices, compliance guidance, guest speakers, networking events, and in-depth Netchex system training.