1. Prep your space (and your tech)
Take a good look at the space around you. What will the people on the other side of the camera see and hear? Make sure you have a quiet space where you can close the door and let others around you know you’ll be on a video call. And check for clutter—no one wants to see your pile of laundry on the bed behind you!
It’s also a good idea to do a tech run-through prior to the event. Make sure your internet connection is strong and that your camera and mic are working. Log in to the platform a few minutes before the event and do a test of your video and audio.
2. Look your best
Attending class in your PJs may be one of the upsides of remote learning, but that won’t fly for online networking. It’s important to project a professional appearance, and that means dressing the part. We recommend business casual attire—this can include a wrinkle-free button-down shirt, polo shirt, sweater, blouse, dress, trousers, skirt. Could you wear sweatpants? It’s true, no one will see them…but if you dress professionally, you’re more inclined to feel and act professionally while connecting with others.
During the call, it might feel weird, but remember to look at the camera while you speak, not at the image on your screen. Even though you’re connecting virtually, people can still see you and pick up cues from your body language. Nodding and smiling are two ways to show that you’re engaged and interested.
3. Know your “elevator pitch”
What are you passionate about? What are you hoping to get out of this event? Write down two or three sentences that convey what sets you apart and why you are attending this event.
Here’s what my pitch might have been when I was in college:
“Hi, my name is Johanna, and I’m a senior majoring in art history. I’m passionate about bringing the arts to underserved communities, and I’m hoping to get advice on how to land an internship in a museum or other cultural institution.”
It might feel strange “selling” yourself, but having your pitch ready means you can clearly communicate to others who you are and how they might be able to help you. Practice saying your pitch until it starts to feel natural.
4. Do your research and prepare questions in advance
Do as much research as you can on the participants before the event. Look them up on LinkedIn and review their resumes. Who are you really hoping to connect with? What about their background interests you? What elements of their experience might connect to your own career interests? If you are networking with employer recruiters, research their companies. Read job postings to see what kinds of skills they look for.
No matter the kind of event, write down questions that you’d like to ask based on your research and your own interests. Writing down your questions means that even if your nerves get the best of you and your mind goes blank, you’ll still be prepared to engage in conversation—just refer to your list!
5. Follow up
After the event, connect with the people you met. The most important part of networking is growing and maintaining the new relationships you have created! The best way to do this is via LinkedIn. Send a request to connect, remind them how you met, and ask to set up a time for a more in-depth conversation.
And check out our tips for creating a great LinkedIn profile before you send out any invitations to connect!