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Chati's Guide to Effective Virtual Networking

Laurence Tognetti
January 29, 2024

I. Introduction

One of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was the rise of virtual networking. While born from necessity, virtual networking created new and exciting ways for individuals to grow and learn from each other like never before. With virtual networking, you can take your ideas and talent to new heights by building connections and fostering relationships for both the short- and long-term.  

Here, Chati outlines a guide to mastering effective virtual networking skills. We discuss the importance of virtual networking, tests, and strategies for reaching networking goals.   

A Chati virtual networking session, showing breakout rooms by topic.

II. How to Understand Virtual Networking

A. Virtual Networking and Why It Matters

Virtual networking, or digital networking, is a professional connection and engagement method where people can share ideas and build relationships. Effective virtual networking is essential for increasing inclusivity and connectivity and fostering professional relationships in the short and long term.   

B. Embracing Digital Networking Techniques

One of the most difficult tasks in digital networking is transitioning from in-person to virtual, as this new environment comes with different sets of guidelines and protocols, which will be discussed further below. There are many benefits of going digital in networking, with the primary benefit being your reach, as virtual networking allows you to engage with professionals in your field from all over the world in a fraction of the time as in-person networking. The level of online tools at your disposal also far surpasses in-person networking, including social media, email, and Google, to name a few.   

III. How to Implement Effective Networking Strategies

A. Building Meaningful Connections in the Digital World

One of the most essential virtual networking tools is crafting an effective elevator pitch, which means keeping ideas short and direct. When you're meeting in person, you can share your ideas slowly and naturally within a conversation. However, since virtual networking often involves interacting with a larger number of people at a faster pace, reformatting your thoughts and ideas into bite-sized formats allows everyone to share.  

Additional strategies for building successful digital relationships include the same strategies for building in-person relationships, including knowing your audience and being able to address the group's goals in addition to your own. However, virtual networking is different because you're utilizing additional digital tools, such as social media, for your networking needs.  

B. Leveraging Social Media for Effective Networking

Another critical aspect of virtual networking is maximizing the potential of social media platforms to share your ideas and build your brand. This doesn't necessarily mean using the most popular platforms but focusing on those that will maximize the range of your ideas and reach instead. For example, using platforms where you've had accounts for a while will work best since you're familiar with the layout and flow. You may also have a longer history on the platform, making your profile appear more organic and natural. You can create alternative accounts for your brand while linking it to your personal account so everyone knows it's you.  

When using social media for networking, it's vital to remember the dos and don'ts. This includes keeping your posts short and direct while managing the number of posts, as you don't want to scare people off with too much "spam." Additionally, while engaging with people is strongly encouraged, it's important to pick your battles and not engage with negative users, as you want to avoid getting dragged into a heated debate where everyone can see what you're saying.   

IV. How to Enhance Digital Engagement

A. Real-Time Interaction

With digital networking, as with face-to-face, every minute counts. An elevator pitch is a condensed version of your vision, and social media can help create the building blocks for your brand, but real time interaction is the key to success. Authentic conversations in real-time can create a genuine connection between you and your audience, making them feel valued and heard. To engage in real time digital networking, research virtual events with dedicated networking sessions and set up informative interviews with professionals working in your chosen field. Informative interviews are informal conversations where you can learn about job responsibilities and professional experiences.  

Chati Virtual Happy Hour
B. Hosting a Virtual Happy Hour

As mentioned above, you can find dedicated virtual networking sessions within a wide range of virtual events, but you may also see breakout sessions called ‘Virtual Happy Hours’. These breakout sessions typically have a less formal feel and encourage conversations outside of the typical professional development topics. While this may sound counter intuitive, these informal conversations can lead to memorable experiences for attendees. You’re more likely to remember a conversation with someone that makes you laugh! 

C. Speed Networking

Speed networking is exactly what it sounds like. Within a speed networking event you are paired with others in your field to quickly and effectively connect. Remember that elevator pitch? It’ll really come in handy here.  Be on the lookout for speed networking events to make multiple new contacts in a short period of time.

V. How to Explore Virtual Networking Solutions

A common critique of virtual events is the lack of face-to-face spontaneous conversations that are the bread and butter of in-person events. However, video conferencing has come a long way in this department, and there are now options to recreate that spontaneous face-to-face experience. When attending a virtual event for networking purposes, check and see what platform they are using to promote face-to-face interaction. For example, with Chati, we have ChatiConnect. The video chat tool allows for small breakout groups and both planned and spontaneous conversations.  

Chati breakout room

VI. How to Build Strong Connections Online

Virtual networking has many benefits, but sharing your contact information safely and effectively is important. This starts with trust, as you don't want to share your contact information with someone who could use it against you. Online scammers are paid to steal contact information and then sell it to third parties, so you must have complete confidence in the person you're interacting with before you share contact information.    

Another vital tip is managing and organizing contact information privately or publicly. Either method means providing a short, detailed list of your most pertinent contact information, which will garner a sense of professionalism for your network. This includes email signatures, your LinkedIn profile, and social media pages, to name a few.   

VII. How to Measure Success in Virtual Networking

A. Adapting and Evolving Your Virtual Networking Strategies

Pay attention to the importance of continuous improvement. While your goal is to build your virtual network, you are also looking for ways to improve yourself personally and professionally. This can be accomplished through a simple conversation or over the long-term through countless conversations you will have while building your network.  

It's vital to stay ahead of the curve in virtual networking. This includes keeping your information up to date on social media platforms, specifically LinkedIn, where your entire CV/résumé is publicly available. You can regularly update your other social media platforms to reflect title changes, new positions, promotions, accolades, awards, and more!   

Chati breakout room and chat.
B. Exploring Chati's Networking Platform

At Chati, we pride ourselves on building connections and fostering professional relationships for both the short and long term. Within a Chati event, our internal virtual networking platform, ChatiConnect, helps facilitate meaningful connections throughout the event and in small group breakout sessions. Chat messaging is also effective, but video chats like ChatiConnect give those interested in networking that personal touch often lost in translation from in-person to virtual events.  

VIII. Conclusion

Whether your goals are to build your brand or your network, it's vital to understand the importance of virtual networking and its benefits and strategies to achieve your networking goals. Additionally, it's vital to remember that you're here to learn, grow, and improve, both personally and professionally, while sharing ideas and fostering connections for both the short- and long-term, which includes safely sharing your contact information while keeping it up to date. At Chati, you can accomplish your networking goals with our myriad of tools and resources, and we hope you come away from this feeling more confident than ever that you can meet your networking goals!  

Sources: ChatiDigital RoadForum OnePrinceton UniversityHubSpotGovernment of CanadaChati (1)Chati (2)   

Written by Laurence Tognetti

Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran with extensive journalism and science communication experience for various outlets. He specializes in space and astronomy and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ET_Exists.

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