As the insurance industry starts planning for the conference season, many will still be virtual, or a hybrid of face-to-face and on-screen. Rein4ce Director Sarah Hills and CEO Mairi Mallon share their top tips on successful networking at online events.
Last week we attended the Trading Risk ILS Week virtual event. It’s one of the better networking platforms we’ve seen so far, and we made some valuable contacts and attended interesting seminars.
But we were struck by how many delegates hadn’t prepared for this virtual event as they would an ‘in real life’ conference. Some people hadn’t even supplied a photograph or biography.
The industry publications have been working hard to offer valuable and relevant content virtually, but delegates must play their part too.
We’re all finding our way in the new virtual way of doing business when we’re used to getting together at conferences all over the world, with those happenstance meetings sometimes being the most productive.
It’s understandable that many delegates find it a struggle to network the same way when they are sitting at home staring at a screen instead of shaking hands with new people and greeting old friends. We’re a sociable, friendly lot in the insurance industry and a Zoom or Teams meeting isn’t the same as meeting in person, but it’s still possible to network, even if it’s online at first.
There’s an upside
And there are advantages to virtual conferences with thousands of delegates from all over the world being able to attend conferences instead of hundreds. Plus, with travel costs no longer a consideration, virtual conferences are more accessible to junior staff who, if they are savvy, they can make valuable business connections while boosting their profile.
Even virtual conferences cost a lot of money and it makes sense to do your homework in the run up to them to renew existing contacts, develop new ones and pick up business leads.
Top 5 virtual conference tips
- Plan by studying the lists of speakers and delegates and take it as seriously as you would a physical conference – block out your diary and put away your devices to focus on the event.
- Learn how to use the platform beforehand. You may think there’s no point as we’ll all go back to physical conferences, but virtual events are here to stay, even as part of a hybrid event.
- Post a decent picture, biography, and job description if your title is confusing to people outside your firm. We’re looking at you, Chief Imagination Officers.
- Make sure you’re easy to contact and your email and phone number or that of your personal assistant is available.
- Get in touch with other delegates and speakers before and after an event and follow-up offline if you make a successful connection. Network with the help of social media, letting people know you’ll be attending an event, asking for advice and feedback, and checking delegates out on LinkedIn to see what you have in common. The goal, like social media networking, is a face-to-face meeting and, hopefully, a long-term business relationship.