How to virtually network successfully by Jarrod Goldsmith – Founder of eSAX Virtual Events
Networking often conjures up thoughts of sales and/or elevator pitches, being treated as a left-over business card, and otherwise a necessary evil when attending in-person events. It can be so much more than that! Especially when networking virtually!
With the rise of virtual events, here are some essential virtual networking tips that you can use so your networking endeavors become less stressful…and more successful!
Prior to Covid, there were many in-person networking tips that eSAX has covered, but this blog is about how to successfully network virtually. While some tips apply to both in-person and virtual events, some only to in-person, and some only to virtual, it’s wise to first briefly explore why networking is so important.
When you want to sell something, promote an event, encourage people to subscribe to a social media channel, or any other need to have someone take action, often some form of networking is involved. As entrepreneurs, the only way folks stay in business is if people purchase their wares or services. Having 1000’s of social media followers is nice and absolutely adds credibility to a brand, but if followers are not engaging or purchasing, something is missing. Besides Google/Facebook or other paid advertising options, the best way to create engagement and in essence, build a brand, is through developing and nurturing relationships from attending networking events.
Before you attend networking events just for the sake of meeting people, it is important to understand your main demographic, the market you want to target, and which events your ideal client attends. It took about one year for eSAX founder Jarrod Goldsmith to understand this important distinction.
Back in 2011 when Jarrod launched his unique band Sax Appeal, he quickly realized that no one has ever heard of an all-saxophone band, let alone is looking to hire one. So, he started attending every networking event he could find to create a market for such a niche sound, and never looked back!
While Jarrod started becoming known as the networking musician who wears a cool fedora, he started wondering why he wasn’t getting many gigs after attending 10-15 networking events a week. Most of the free events he attended at that time had its fair share of real estate agents, mortgage brokers and financial planners, most of whom couldn’t wait to throw him a business card. It wasn’t until he joined the Ottawa Board of Trade that he realized he was networking in the wrong places.
Organizations such as Chambers of Commerce / Boards of Trade have historically been around a long time and have already established major ‘klout’ within their community. For example, C – Suite and other business and community leaders often attend such events, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson who frequently sees eSAX founder Jarrod Goldsmith around the city. Knowing your Mayor and other executive leaders can certainly help your business! Organizations that have a higher ticket price for membership and events tend to attract others who want to be there, who attend for a purpose, and whom are often larger businesses with budgets. In Jarrod’s case, THOSE were the folks who host 600-person cocktail receptions and needed live jazz or classical music for their events. The gigs started rolling-in!
Finding the optimal kinds of virtual networking events where your main demographic attends is well worth the investment. With the ease at which anyone on the planet can attend a virtual event, you may find that your main demographic is no longer confined to your city. Figure out what kinds of events your ideal customer attends…and then join them… anywhere in the world! Without having to travel and spend considerable amounts of money on hotels, food and other expenses, the cost for attending virtual events is often much less compared to in-person events.
If possible, use a virtual networking platform so you can meet, engage and actually have meaningful relationships with other attendees in a much more reasonable (i.e, smaller) breakout room format than say 50 people on the tele-meeting platform Zoom. Everyone craves a human touch, and we all want to be connect with people almost one-to-one.
With eSAX Virtual Events, for example, one can quickly connect via LinkedIn, Facebook etc and see their profile in real-time…which provides you an opportunity to ask interesting person-specific questions. This shows you are paying attention, have done some research about the other person and generally want to get to know them. (fyi, they don’t have to know you just looked at their LinkedIn profile 5 seconds ago…but they could probably guess lol)!
Why is such a simple hack like reviewing someone’s LinkedIn profile so important? Because prior to Covid, we would have had to know who was attending an event (often not made publicly available). Post event, you would then ask your new networking buddy to connect on LinkedIn as part of your follow-up event protocol. There was simply no opportunity to review a LinkedIn profile during an in-person event.
With virtual events, we have an incredible opportunity to really dive-in and learn more about the person you’re actually talking to. In real-time. You may find that you went to the same high school as the person, or you both worked in Malta in the summer of 2002 etc. Finding common ground leads to a much better conversation …. rather than a sales pitch.
The most important differentiation with virtual networking events is that it is usually much easier to have natural conversations that don’t seem fake or entirely business-related. You may find that more non-work-related questions tend to be asked vs. in-person events. Questions like ‘what kind of dog is that’, ‘how old is your child’. ‘what part of town are you in’, ‘is that a book on sailing behind you’ can lead to actual relationships and friendships with people. These are the kinds of questions you should be asking when networking with others virtually.
When you network virtually and ask questions that may lead to friendship, you will find that those who become to like you, know you and trust you, will become your best clients. Yes it will take time, but once established, not only will they keep buying from you, but they will be your biggest champion and promote your brand for free through word of mouth and would be happy to write a glowing testimonial on Google, Facebook or other social media platforms.
In summary, attend virtual networking events where you know your target market is attending. Don’t be afraid to pay to be in the same virtual space as your prospective clients. If possible, have small networking rooms so you can have actual conversations, review someone’s social media feed (especially LinkedIn in real-time), and ask questions about the person. All this will help you build a relationship with someone, and ultimately, will help you virtually network successfully.
eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience) is Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s largest entrepreneur networking community for small business. Now known as eSAX Virtual Events, eSAX has pivoted to hosting interactive and exciting virtual events for others.
Jarrod Goldsmith is a Canadian small business community builder and is the embodiment of the small business spirit. An archaeologist and musician by education, he is one of Ottawa’s best-known entrepreneurs and founded eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience); Ottawa’s largest entrepreneur networking community for small business. Using an interactive virtual event platform, Jarrod has pivoted to hosting exciting virtual events for others.
In addition, he has >700 videos on entrepreneurship and networking for small business on the eSAX YouTube channel, hosts both the eSAX Podcast and Pivoted Success Podcast series, and is the founder of Sax Appeal (Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble).
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