In this new normal world, online conferences are fast becoming the norm. Along with this comes digital networking, which can be hella scary. Here’s Ellie King’s top tips for getting you started.
You’ll have heard this a million times, but the world has gone digital, and one area where things have changed massively is the world of conferences. Gone are the days of travel, hotels, and those cups of coffee with the tiny packets of biscuits. Instead, conferences have become more accessible than ever, with more events taking place online, for free, than ever before. (If you want to read more on online conferences, check out Lucia’s blog from 2020 here).So, while we can’t physically get out, in networking terms this really is a time to get out there. Which leads us to the sometimes dreaded world of networking. *shivers*
Never having been fully comfortable with in person networking, I’ve found the online conference world to be slightly less intimidating with regards to getting my name out there and building relationships. One conference I attended ran a session on digital networking, and since then I’ve found it easier than ever to navigate. So here’s some of those tips passed on to you.
What is the goal?
Firstly, it’s crucial to ask yourself why you’re networking at all. What are you hoping to achieve through networking? What content are you sharing? What is the take home message you want to give? Answering these questions from the get go means you can focus your energy and investment, and not waste time.
Platforms Next, where are you networking? For your sector or area of research, is there a key platform that most people use and where most discussion takes place? For me, it’s Twitter and LinkedIn. Once you’ve determined your platforms, think about how much you want to share and what you want to keep private. Personally, I like a bit of my personality to come out, so I will talk about what I’m watching on TV or what I’m getting up to at the weekend, as long as it stays professional and decent. But I also have more private platforms, namely Facebook and Instagram, where things can be more personal and shared with family and friends. Whatever you choose, set those boundaries and stick to them.
Three Steps of Digital Networking
If you are attending an online conference, these three steps are a good starting point to focus your digital networking.
Before the event: Have a look at the conference programme. Google the speakers, follow them on Twitter, use the hashtags for the event to share what you’re looking forward to.
During the event: Introduce yourself in the chat, and share your platforms for people to connect with you. Think up some questions and ask them. I’ve found that with chat functions of many conference platforms like Zoom, it’s far less daunting to engage with other audience members than it is to put your hand up and speak into the scary microphone at a normal conference.
After the event: Connect and follow people you met, dropping them a little message to remind them who you are. If you found speakers particularly engaging, message or email them to say so.
Tying all this together is how you come across online. Personal branding is now more important than ever, and so it’s important to take some time to get this right. Think about what you want to communicate about yourself online – are you friendly, approachable yet professional? Make sure your tweets and messages communicate this. Make sure your profile photo communicates this. And keep your branding consistent. This can be both in what you say, and in how you look. (I know it’s not great to be noticed for what you look like rather than what you say, but having something recognisable to jog people’s memories in the busy world of research can’t hurt. For me, I’m ‘the girl in the turtle neck with ginger hair and the big earrings’). If you’re using more than one platform, ensure your photo and bio are consistent across all of them. Maybe even reference your other platforms – my LinkedIn includes ‘follow me on twitter.’ If you have any webpage profiles of your research, link these in your profiles. Keeping it all consistent means you’re easier to find and identify, and people will start to remember you.
I hope these tips will help you build your online profile and help you on the way in the sometimes scary world of digital networking. I think it’s really important to be yourself online: communicate your passion for your work, what inspires and motivates you. Bring out your personality a little bit. It’ll help people remember you and your work, and it’ll send you on your way to really making an impact.
Feeling confident to get networking online? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Ellie King is a Second Year PhD student in Warwick Manufacturing Group. She has been at Warwick since 2014 in the History department, and has recently moved faculties to research applying user experience to the museum sector. Ellie is partnered with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here, or follow her on Twitter @ellietheking