A virtual networking event can be a powerful opportunity to rapidly make valuable connections around the world…
…if you don’t waste your time while you’re there.
The most effective, and thus most common, form of virtual speed networking is some kind of break out. Sometimes this is a quick one to one, or sometimes it’s a group.
Either way, you have a very small number of minute to exchange a specific set of information.
Ultimately, you’ll know you have a successful connection because you set a follow up meeting. The fortune is only in the follow up. If you’re not creating follow up calls, then you have wasted your time at the networking event. You cannot do business in 3 minutes unless you’re behind a retail counter.
This is not entirely accurate. There are other positive outcomes. People can sign up to speak at or attend your event. They can connect on LinkedIn. Things like that.
Either way, you need to be sharing two key pieces of information:
- Why people want to connect with you
- How people can help you
Examples of the first are problems you solve, resources you offer, and introductions you can make.
Examples of the second are sharing people that you are looking to be introduced to, resources you are seeking, and problems you need solved. Generally this is NOT who your customers are. People who just met you a minute ago are not ready to send you customers.
You know what doesn’t provide either of these pieces of information? Talking about how Zoom mutes you when you came into the breakout room, or the story about how your laptop didn’t work yesterday, or work-from-home life, or any other small talk.
The speed networking structure DOES NOT HAVE TIME for small talk. There is plenty of time to share enough to know if you should follow up and have another call, and on that call you can small talk until the cows come home.
Many of these sessions are actually built on specific timing. 3 minutes per person, 5 people, 16 minute sessions. No time to be off topic. Someone will not get to speak.
What you should never ever ever ever ever ever ever do is waste everyone’s time in the breakout with small talk. There is less than 30 seconds to spare for anything that is not the matter at hand.
The rules of decorum are different online.
If you’re in a live room, it’s rude not to acknowledge people you know, ask about the family, and all that. In a breakout room in a structured networking event it is rude to disrupt the flow of the event with chit chat.
In a live event, if you’re small talking, then other people can move off and have separate conversations. In a Zoom room, your small talk monopolizes the conversation with topics that most people there are not interested in listening to.
Of course, no one will say anything because it’s difficult to shut someone up without being rude. So the result is a wasted opportunity to network and the veteran networkers in the room getting very frustrated.
Michael Whitehouse is a networking concierge, networking coach, and attends a lot of networking events. Like a whole lot. Like more than any normal person should. Every Friday at 10 AM Eastern, he hosts an open virtual coffee for anyone who wants to meet with him.