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WomenHack Networking Event Goes Virtual
Attending networking events in person once required careful planning by printing out business cards and resumes, dressing to impress, and allowing enough time to get to and from the event. With many tech companies continuing to hire during COVID-19, these companies are finding ways to recruit employees virtually, thereby changing the landscape of networking events.
I recently attended one of these networking events hosted by WomenHackLos Angeles and was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency and authenticity in virtual networking. WomenHack is an organization that “empowers women in tech through reviews, jobs, and events.” The organization puts on job fairs in cities around the world, and these events are now all virtual due to the rapid spread of Covid-19.
The WomenHack event I attended was made possible due to Hopin, an online events platform. The platform allows for a keynote presentation on stage, chat messages, polls, break-out sessions as well as one-on-one networking.
The event started with a keynote that appeared in a dedicated window in the Hopkin platform. The platform also contained a chat feature accessible to all attendees and presenters. Watching the keynote while being able to see and contribute to a chat shared by other attendees and the presenters made the experience feel collaborative and inclusive. Often at a large event, it may be intimidating to speak up and ask a question. Having attendees ask questions in the chat window made the process feel accessible to everyone, even for the timid person who would typically be hiding in the back of the room.1:1 Networking
Following the keynote, attendees were given a chance to take part in speed-networking sessions to have 1:1 facetime with companies that are hiring. This was undoubtedly the most exciting and interactive part of the experience. As an attendee, I was redirected to a page where I was randomly matched with a representative from one of the companies hiring. On the bottom center of the screen was a “Connect” button, which, if pressed and mutual, will add each respective’s contact information to the contacts dashboard after the event. We were given 4 minutes to talk before, boom, the timer ran out, and I was matched with a representative from another company.
Another section of the site mimicked a networking exposition hall. Each company present at the event had a break-out session booth for those who were interested in further chatting and learning about opportunities. This was a collaborative experience where multiple attendees could listen in and openly contribute to discussions.
How to Successfully Network at a Virtual Event?
Now you may be wondering how to succeed at a virtual networking event. There is a lot of overlap when considering what makes a successful in-person vs. virtual networking event. First and foremost, you should have a goal before attending the event. Ask yourself, “what do I want to get out of this?”. Is the goal to look for a job or network with other attendees? Second, having thoughtful questions when talking with company representatives gives a significant impression. Researching the companies ahead of time and making a list of meaningful and relevant questions will shape their perception of you.
Follow these tips when attending a virtual networking event:
Talking with other attendees and company representatives will require a webcam and microphone setup. It’s always recommended to test the microphone and speakers beforehand, and also ensure that you’re sitting in an area with a clean background and good lighting.
Update your LinkedIn profile. The best way to connect with other attendees and company representatives is through LinkedIn. Most virtual venue platforms will likely allow you to create a profile with a link to your LinkedIn profile. Other attendees and company representatives will be able to see your LinkedIn profile, and this may be your main form of communication following the event.
Make an effective and concise introduction. During the WomenHack event, the 1:1 networking only allows you to have 4 minutes with each company representative. That’s a short amount of time for you to introduce yourself, learn about the company, and ask any questions. Use that time efficiently!
Body language over a webcam is easily read even though you’re not interacting in-person. Be sure to smile, have good eye contact, and good posture to appear sincere and communicate more efficiently.
Follow up. You now have the representative’s contact information by connecting during the 1:1 networking. Follow up after the event if you’re interested in opportunities at the company or connecting with the individual.
Whether you’re looking for a job or interested in making connections, I highly recommend attending a virtual networking event. The technology that has and is currently being developed to support virtual venues is quite powerful in creating a virtual experience synonymous with an in-person event. I got as much out of this networking session as I would have if I had attended in person. Without having to worry about transportation, traffic, and the logistics of printing business cards and resumes, having these events virtually enables more people to have access to these types of events.
Written by Julie Elise