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Well, here we are again! Entering another exciting season of networking events and conferences before year-end. You might be thinking that with the pandemic winding down, things are going “back to normal” and “as they were” back in 2019. But the reality is some things have just stuck and virtual networking is one of them.

We all know why traditional networking is so important, whether you’re an employee of a large company or the owner of your own. Simply put, networking is an opportunity to be seen and heard. It’s a chance to represent yourself and your professional brand. And it’s a chance to interact with others in your industry, to share valuable information and to develop professional social ties. This is the same whether you show up in person or virtually. How you show up and represent your interests communicates just as much as the why.

Wagepoint Partner, Kerri Bouffard, explains why networking is important:

“What you know only takes you so far — who you know takes you further! And there is so much knowledge out there to be shared, you never know when you will learn something new.”

— Kerri Bouffard, Owner, Add-Vantage Bookkeeping

That’s why we’re offering some tips on how to show up better and make the most of your virtual networking opportunities in the remaining months of 2022. Wagepoint’s own virtual event, Wagefest 2022: Grow. Connect. Celebrate. is right around the corner and would be a great chance to put these tips into action. We also have some first-hand insights from Kerri, who attended Wagefest last year and is excited to attend this year, too.

Let’s get started!

1. Know thy business audience!

Virtual events, online events, virtual conferences or livestream experiences — they go by many names — have people meeting in an online space rather than in a physical location. Virtual networking events break down the restrictions of needing to be somewhere physically at a particular time.

Anyone with an invite and a WiFi connection can join in, and that’s why virtual networking is so powerful. You can reach other guests and make important business connections from anywhere in the world! The world becomes your networking oyster.

This means you need to spend a little time getting to know your target small business audience before you enter a virtual space. Who do you want to connect with at this particular event? Where are virtual networking event attendees logging in from? What is happening in their current place of residency? Knowing a little bit about potential contacts beforehand goes a very long way in establishing a connection on which to build a long-lasting business relationship.

2. Set your virtual networking goals.

You’ve looked over the virtual networking event itinerary for the day and have decided to attend an event. Now what?

Your most successful virtual networking events will be those you have a plan for! Let’s strategize: Have a plan for what you want to see, hear, learn and who you want to meet. Just like any good vacation, a little planning will reap its rewards later. So, figure out what you want to get out of a session and move towards that.

Maybe you’re looking for some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing? Or, maybe you’d like to attend an educational session to accelerate your small business or accounting/bookkeeping firm to success? Maybe you’re just looking for a fun break to meet some cool new people in a relaxed virtual setting? (Psst! Wagefest has all three of these things!)

More often than not, having the intention and objective outlined before your attendance will maximize the chance that you’ll achieve your goals.

3. Bring a friend.

Events are always more fun when you have someone you know there to share it with. Extend the virtual event invite to a colleague or a friend. Seek out people who you may not know very well, but who you might want to get to know better. Have that LinkedIn contact that you haven’t spoken to in a while? Send them a private message telling them about the exciting virtual event that you plan on attending and let them know why you think they should consider joining you. Share that RSVP link on your social media!

The more people you know who are attending the event, the more people you will reach! Think about it: If you invite five people to a virtual networking event, and they branch off to talk to five other people in breakout rooms, the likelihood that your contacts will mention you in other spaces increases. Your reach will go far beyond even the virtual spaces that you’re attending!

4. Prep your tech.

We all know that tech can be fussy and unpredictable. Remember that time you were minutes late for a Zoom meeting, rushing to log on, and suddenly your computer decided it was the perfect moment to ask you to update your operating system? Just like that, you got pop-up after pop-up asking you to reboot your computer, further delaying your meeting. Or what about that time your conferencing software needed you to download the latest version and your team was already waiting for you in the virtual waiting lounge?

These things happen a lot and they can make what would have been a seamless experience feel unnecessarily frustrating. That’s why we suggest you check your systems at least 10 minutes before the start of any virtual networking event. That includes Wagefest, by the way. We don’t want you to miss out on a single moment of the good times and amazing value in store!

Close unnecessary browser windows and any unused software. This will open up your computer’s resources to the needs of the virtual event.

Finally, log in to the virtual environment a few minutes early. Even if you’re hanging out in the waiting room, at least you’ll know that there’s nothing keeping you from entering the virtual space once the host is ready to begin.

5. Have your best intro and contact pathway ready.

Who are you? What do you want people to know about you when the event is over? These are big questions but important to ask yourself before you venture into virtual networking spaces.

You may have a limited amount of time to make a lasting impression, so craft a message about yourself that feels authentic and informative. Think about it this way: If you could reduce your personal brand to one word, what would it be? Now how can you convey that word through virtual behaviour?

Also, don’t forget to think about your contact pathway. How will people find you when the event is over? Is your virtual screen name the exact same as the one in your LinkedIn profile? If people Googled your name would it be easy to find you? These are things to be mindful of, and don’t forget to put your contact information in the virtual networking chat. Be sure to jot down others’ info, too!

Here’s how Kerri says she handles contact details.

“I try to get email addresses or social media details from everyone I speak with and send a quick follow up message saying it was great to meet them and talk about whatever it was you spoke about — include that you would love to stay in touch.”

— Kerri Bouffard, Owner, Add-Vantage Bookkeeping

6. Be present, stay present.

To get the most out of a virtual networking event, it’s important to be and stay present. One way to do this is to identify potential distractions and take steps to reduce them for the duration of the event. Pretend that you’re actually away on location at a conference! This can really help you get into the right mindset and click in your brain that this time is special. Here’s what Kerri recommends:

“Create a comfy space to be in while attending (possibly not your desk), put your phone on Do Not Disturb and don’t book anything else [in that time frame]. Plan to do your best to be in the moment as if you were actually attending [in person]!”

— Kerri Bouffard, Owner, Add-Vantage Bookkeeping

Oh and don’t forget to get your favorite snacks ahead of time! By taking little steps to make the virtual event time feel more special, you’re more likely to stay focused and in the present moment.

Looking for a virtual networking event to attend this October?

Let us tell you a little more about Wagefest! Join Wagepoint on October 5-6, 2022 for an energy-packed payroll party. Whether you’re starting your entrepreneurial journey or have been in business for decades, come join us for inspiring talks, workshops, fireside chats, music, and lots of networking opportunities. If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper, you have the opportunity to receive certificates of attendance to use towards professional and personal development credits.

Register for Wagefest 2022: Grow. Connect. Celebrate.

Need a bit of extra convincing? Like we mentioned, Kerri attended last year’s event, Wagefest 2021: Peace, Love and Payroll, where she says she enjoyed the “sense of community [and] learning tips and tricks.” She was also a fan of getting insights into what was on the horizon. This year? She’s got her sights set on:

“The knowledge to be gained, the connections to be made, [and] learning of new items coming.”

— Kerri Bouffard, Owner, Add-Vantage Bookkeeping

In closing, like with all things, practice makes perfect. The more virtual networking events you attend, the better you’ll become at extracting maximum value from online interactions. The one thing you must do, however, is begin. So what better time to start virtual networking than today by signing up for 2022’s Wagefest celebration?!