How to Socially Thrive at Virtual Networking Events
Attending events, from a conference or a summit to a training session, can be nerve-wracking. Questions like who you are supposed to talk to and what you should say might flit through your mind. Fear not!
This useful little guide is inspired by the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and brings together key reminders to enable you to successfully work with people and make the most of the events that you attend.
Engage Beyond Expectations
When we go to events (virtual or otherwise), there tends to be an expectation that we interact with certain individuals or attend talks that closely relate to the work that we do. For example, if you are in HR you may attend a Learning and Development virtual networking event.
It is important to consider attending sessions that you find interesting even if it doesn’t directly relate to the work you do. While it may seem counter-intuitive to attend a talk on marketing if you work in human resources, events are more likely to be memorable if you can learn something new.
Not only will this help you to get more out of the session but, when you are actively engaged in content, you become memorable participants who are more likely to have ideas and input remembered in the future.
This is great when considering professional development but, by engaging with content beyond our fields we can also gain insight into the workings of our business or company that we potentially did not have.
This can enhance how we interact with ideas and processes in our business because we perceive beyond our corner, seeing the ‘big picture’. Thus, placing us in a better position to influence any development or implement any changes.
When you are attending virtual events, it can be easy to get lost in the digital environment. After all, you aren’t ‘actually’ meeting these people so, if you present a slightly different version of yourself, who’s going to know? You may play up certain parts of your persona but resist others.
Similarly, you may exaggerate the truth or withhold opinions or ideas when you are at events or networking with others.
Ultimately, being true to yourself is important. Being real and authentic makes long-lasting impressions and means you don’t have to try and keep up a ‘fake’ version of yourself in the long term (should networking or conversation continue). Maintaining a persona over a prolonged period can increase negative emotions or exacerbate an experience with imposter syndrome.
People value honesty and want to talk to you; you are more than enough. Being true to yourself can increase your influence as you become known for your sincerity and may even become the ‘go to’ for help, advice and opinions.
While it is important to be true to yourself it is also important to remember to be kind. We’ve all heard the line ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it’ and when looking at influencing people kindness is key.
If you disagree with an idea or opinion, be free to share your thoughts but don’t do it in such a way that defames the individual. You are not disagreeing with the person; you are disagreeing with the idea.
People value kindness and often, there isn’t enough of it in the world. We all have different things going on in our lives and you never know what challenges other people may be facing. Being kind to other people doesn’t cost anything and can make a huge difference in the day of someone who is struggling (influence on a micro-level).
When looking more broadly at kindness and influence, being kind and empathetic can help you to understand other’s points of view and, equally, help others to listen to (and even employ) your own ideas or methods.
It’s Not a Competition: Celebrate Success
The book may be titled ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ but competition doesn’t factor into influence.
Remembering that life is not a competition links back to the previous point about being kind. It is the little victories in life that can make the biggest difference to our mindset, especially if it is a task we have been struggling with or if we are feeling stressed or unsettled.
Celebrate the success of others without saying that you have done something ‘more’ or ‘better’. You never know; something you may find easy, someone else may have found difficult (or vice versa).
Equally, don’t look at someone else’s success and use it to criticize yourself because this will only make it harder for you to work towards your own goals.
Being invested in others’ success can help to improve your own influence because you are invested in other people, thus known for support. This can then reflect positively when you have your own success to celebrate, and your network are there cheering you on.
As scary as it can seem, take risks. Ask questions or answer them, don’t be afraid to get something wrong. Take chances or opportunities that are available to you and, if something does not work out the way that you were expecting, you will have learnt something from it anyway! The best way to learn is to try.
If you are worried about looking silly or making mistakes in front of other people please remember that chances are, you are asking a question or making a suggestion that someone else may be too nervous to bring up. Not only do risks allow us to learn or adapt to new knowledge, but it also helps the people around you learn.
The most significant benefit to giving something a go is that you become memorable, you are the person who was brave enough to take a chance or voice an idea and this courage can have a significant positive effect on your influence.
We’re sure you’ve noticed that at the root of all these suggestions are communication.
Whether it is learning from others, being true to yourself or voicing your ideas, there is value in communication when considering influence.
This is why we run a communication fundamentals workshop which can help you to enhance your skills and further your understanding and impact during networking and events.