Imagine, city noises surround you as you get out of the heated taxicab and straight to a fancy hotel room in Boston. This was your year to connect with others, make big impressions, and so much more. Sitting in larger conference rooms, watching people speak about the largest issues in the world, for a 2-day experience — unfortunately, that could not happen this year.
Well, that is just another inconvenience of 2020, a digital conference. This seems incredibly boring to others, you may as well be back in school listening to your teacher's blabber on, but it is nothing like that. You get to network with hundreds of people, listen to live speakers, recorded tracks, and all from the comfort of your house!
On October 27th, I had an amazing opportunity to attend the first-ever Virtual MIT Tough Tech Summit! Networking with hundreds of people, listening to amazing speakers, warm fireside chats with remarkable people, and understanding real-world problems.
Imagine you were personally invited to meet and listen to some of the biggest tech founders in the world, and you had the chance to network with them. Would you just start it off with a “hey” or “how are you”? Throughout the conference, before, during, and after, are the most crucial times to network or research the field of people you want to connect with. Keep reading to get the best tips and tricks!
#1 — Know the platform!
Just like if you were in person, you should know where the restroom is, the schedule, where the food is, and so forth. Knowing the “lay of the land” can help you get from one session to another like a pro.
Most of the time, these platforms are easy to figure out, but just in case you're stuck on a certain feature or portion of it, YouTube it! Sometimes conferences require you to pre-download something or install a web browser extension.
#2 — Find a schedule ahead of time!
Most conferences have a large variety of tracks, chats, presentations, and so forth! It can be almost impossible to get all of them, but with this trick, at least you can go to your favorite ones. A day or two in advance, go through your emails, and the website for the conference, the schedule should be hidden in their somewhere!
If you cannot find the schedule, ask someone! This may seem a little scary or stupid, but just by emailing a representative, or the “help” email on the website, you can ensure that there are no unwanted surprises.
#3 — Go to the live sessions, not recorded ones!
To make the most out of the conference, always go to the “exclusive” or “live” conferences. For most, the recorded conference is either released a week after or you need special privileges.
Before the conference, in your prep, go through the website and look to see if previous years have been recorded or it says if it will or will not.
With virtual, a lot of people are not as likely to go to conferences because they find it stupid or a waste of their time. I am here to tell you that it is not a waste of your time. People pour hundreds of hours into these virtual conferences, to make it feel like it is in person almost! I have a couple more tips and trick focused on your mindset and actions at the virtual conference.
#1 — Tackle the Change — head on!
As the pandemic has progressed slowly over the past 8 months, it is not uncommon for you to hear people say “Oh once the pandemic is over…” Have you ever heard someone say, “During the pandemic, I want to…”? To embrace the change during conferences and to show your commitment and invest in your area. Whether that is investing in a microphone, headphones, better camera, computer, background, or anything else, it's important to have the proper equipment. This helps you look and sound more professional, and helps you take on the change!
#2 — Attend with no other distractions
Attending with no distraction is harder than it may seem. To attend fully, you cannot check your phone for emails, no YouTube on the side, but instead to really be listening.
Focus. As I previously said, with these new temptations, devices, emails, etc., it gets harder and harder to fully focus on who is talking. The next time you attend something as simple as a meeting, try to practice this skill, putting your phone in a box, or not having any other tabs open; it works better than you think.
Get involved. Getting involved makes something more interesting, ranging from taking notes and asking questions, to introducing yourself! For an introvert, this may seem slightly scarier, it's worth it trust me!
#3 — Follow up!
After the conference, is a very crucial time for networking, some may even say more than the actual conference. Reaching out to people on LinkedIn, or Facebook, reintroducing yourself, and finally asking to meet for a “coffee chat” on zoom does wonder for building your network.
Through these tips, tricks, and mindsets, I am confident that you will rock your next conference with confidence, networking skills, and without your phone. Applying these tips to work/school can also help you a ton!