Maximize your opportunities to network this week during the ATD Virtual Conference.
Ample cutting-edge learning opportunities are a hallmark of the Association for Talent Development’s conferences. But for attendees, learning is only one element that they look for. Postconference surveys consistently confirm that aside from the learning opportunities, networking is a chief reason talent development professionals take part in the conferences, says Jodi VanWoerkom, CMP, ATD event manager.
For that reason, event organizers do not leave networking to happenstance and have incorporated numerous networking opportunities into this week’s Virtual Conference: Unleash Potential. These opportunities are designed to facilitate meaningful connections among conference participants.
To get the most out of this week, be as intentional about networking as you are about learning. Here are ways to meet others and build connections. Note: Icebreakers, networking roundtables, and happy hour chats are limited to 50 participants to create an atmosphere more conducive to networking. Reserve your spot now. To do so, select the session you are interested in and then click on the Reserve Spot button.
Icebreakers. Start today by attending an icebreaker session at 4:15 p.m. ET. Multiple icebreakers will run concurrently so that all participants have a chance to meet and greet. Facilitated by learning session leaders, these sessions are your opportunity to introduce yourself and learn more about other attendees.
Networking roundtables. On Tuesday and Thursday, plan to attend a networking roundtable. Similar to the icebreakers, there will be a number of roundtables that run concurrently. This is an opportunity to take part in a discussion on a topic that interests you. Topics range from diversity, equity, and inclusion to how the pandemic is affecting talent development professionals’ role. One session—New to Training—is geared toward those who are early in their career.
Happy hour chats. Conference session leaders will facilitate these fun BYOB events on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. These discussions are a bit more fluid in format, enabling participants to determine the ebb and flow of the conversation. Not only are they a great way to cap off the day of intense learning, but the informal nature of the events make them some of the best networking.
Q&A with sponsors. The Virtual Conference may not have an exhibit hall, but these Q&As enable you to connect with conference sponsors and learn how their resources and expertise can enhance your professional journey. Sponsors will present a live session and then open the session up to participants’ questions.
Wrap party. Following Thursday’s closing keynote session, plan to participate in a special networking party to celebrate a successful week of learning. A professional bartender will teach participants how to mix rum-infused cocktails and mocktails. Regardless of what beverage you choose to sip or create during the demonstration, the chat discussion and event are open to all and present a fun way to interact with others. Be sure to share your cocktails or mocktails on social media during the party and tag them #ATDVirtualConference for a chance to win a prize. To preview the mixology drinks and determine the ingredients you’ll need, visit the Attendee Resources page.
In addition to those networking opportunities, the conference by its nature enables you to engage with others. A little planning will help you increase connections. Here are some tips.
Connect in chats. One of the easiest ways to network is via the live chats that run in tandem with all learning sessions. You can chime in with thoughts that come to mind during the session and interact with others in real time. These organic, casual interactions can lead to meaningful connections with others who may be valuable additions to your professional or personal network.
Be searchable. Complete your profile after you initially log in to the conference platform—this is an essential first step to facilitate meaningful connections with others. In addition to adding a photo, your bio, and your LinkedIn handle, tag your profile with your interests and areas of expertise. Adding tags—like data and measurement, e-learning, and user experience, for example—makes your profile easier for others to discover when they search for specific skills or interests.
Be strategic. One falsehood about networking is the belief that you have to engage with everyone at the event—not only is that impossible, but it’s ineffective. Profile tagging and searching is a two-way street. Seek out connections who would make valuable additions to your network. And challenge yourself daily to expand your network, not only with peers but also with decision makers, influencers, subject matter experts, and possible mentors.
Be intentional. The conference platform makes its easy for you to plan your days. Similarly, you can schedule networking opportunities as part of your daily agenda. As such, you should be able to achieve a goal to experience each type of networking event.
Be prepared. To participate in any of the available networking opportunities—such as private meetings, roundtables, icebreaker sessions, and happy hours—you must install the Zoom Client for Meetings (the basic, free version). And remember: The tried-and-true principles of networking apply the same in the virtual world as they do in person. Stand ready to answer questions such as “What do you do?” in a succinct and engaging fashion.
In a time where opportunities to interact with other professionals are scarcer, make the most of these opportunities this week to expand your skills and knowledge and upgrade your network.
Share your ATD Virtual Conference experience on social media. #ATDVirtualConference