Networking has taken on a new form these days, but the effort is more important than ever before. Leaving the networking research and connections up to your EA is the best way to make those connections happen in an Executive’s busy schedule.
Current circumstances surrounding the global pandemic have changed the landscape of connecting with others because of the new limited ability to travel, whether it’s downtown or to another state. Technological advances have now given Executive Assistants ways to conduct networking through Virtual Networking Events, resulting in an even more preferable medium to many.
Participating in these events is beneficial to the Assistant in many ways, instilling confidence in the value of their role. Executives will benefit from the connections the Assistant makes, opening doors to new business relationships – vendors, potential customers/clients, peers and business partners. So how do you take the first step into the virtual networking world?
Choose a Theme
The very first thing you must decide is the nature of the event, or the theme. It can be as simple as network & discuss how excited we are to be moving forward this year, or you can develop a creative theme. For example, October could be an actual theme in which the attendees will costume up for the event – something like, “Witch Will You Choose”. The attendees all dress up as their own variation of a witch or simply wear a fun witch hat. Themed questions could lead the event discussion, such as: “Witch yoga pose helps you calm down the most?” You could even go as far as to provide a themed cocktail recipe beforehand to the guests (clearly this would depend on your crowd). Whatever direction you choose to go with your event, just make sure there is a touch of fun. It will help everyone to relax, give them something to look forward to, and create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone to participate with each other.
Creating the Guest List
Yes, times have changed and as eager as we are for more human interaction these days, there are still limits on our new methods of networking. Virtual is certainly the safest (and most efficient) way to go, especially when you are networking across the country with different time zones, COVID restrictions, etc. This does, however, raise the issue of how many people you can invite to these virtual networking events and then who you should invite. With platforms like Zoom, you can hold up to 49 participants in “Gallery Mode”, which looks like this:
However, there are size recommendations based on the theme of the event. Which we will go into more detail about in the next section.
Pick a Platform
Once you have decided what size your event will be, you will then need to decide which platform will best fit your needs (and budget in some cases). Most platforms have free options, but if you want more bells and whistles, you may be venturing into upgrade territory. Markletic has a great article about best practices and research on the type of platform that you would like to use for your specific event.
When sending out invites, remember to keep time zones in mind in case some attendees are out-of-state. Make sure to note the approximate length of the event. The length of an average virtual working event is about ninety minutes. Why not longer? Many people do find virtual meetings more tiresome than in person meetings. An article by the Harvard Business Review entitled How to Combat Zoom Fatigue explains why this phenomenon occurs and how to lessen its effects.
It is also a good idea to send attendees an email a few days before the virtual event. Including the reminder in this email will be especially helpful with the busy, fast-paced environment many EAs experience weekly even during the pandemic. Adding a list of who will be attending and possibly links to his or her social media or LinkedIn profiles to the message will help ease the minds of attendees who may feel anxious about social gatherings, even virtual ones. The last thing to include in this preliminary email for your virtual networking event is the information for which platform you will be using. Make it easier for each attendee by giving them instructions on how to login or sign up ahead of time.
On the day of the virtual networking event, make sure you are logged in at least two minutes before the time listed on the invitation. It is also pertinent to not begin until five minutes after the specified start time, giving each attendee enough time to arrive. During the event, give everyone a few minutes to introduce themselves followed by asking each person a few open-ended questions to get the conversation going. Ninety minutes will go by quickly if the event is successful, comfortable for all attendees, and productive in executing your company’s project.
The most important part of a successful networking event is to make it a break from reality. Yes, business can be discussed to a point but it shouldn’t take over the entire event. You must view these events as a way to build relationships with people in your industry, perhaps in your role and even Executives! Just focus on bringing together a group of professionals with at least one common factor. You never know where those relationships will lead.
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