I am currently building a portfolio of Non-Executive director roles, a search that is based on networking. So, when lockdown first hit, just like many businesses, I had to pivot my search and it worked. I have picked up one independent board advisor role in wealthtech and a lead on a wealth management NED role through virtual networking. Here are a few tips from my experience:
- Not all platforms are equal
Zoom may be the leader for a meeting, but as far as networking goes look out for events using platforms that enable you to move freely between virtual tables to network or conferences that provide permanent breakout rooms for open conversations. I find Remo particularly good for this, with entire ‘floors’ for open breakout and an ability to join a conversation at a table with one click and leave it with another click at a time of your choosing. It was discussions in these forums that ultimately led to my independent board advisor role.
- Nail your personal elevator pitch
Virtual conversation etiquette must overcome the inability to talk over one another or have multiple conversations in a group at one time. A succinct, to the point, introduction to you, your experience and the role you are looking for, will keep you on the right side of polite whilst getting across what you want people to know. It was my work on this that landed me an introduction to a potential NED role that I am currently under consideration for.
- Use LinkedIn and be proactive
Webinars may not have the same interactive features as a physical event but there are still thought leaders presenting who are worth adding to your network. Ask questions so presenters know your name, then follow up with a LinkedIn request and message asking for a virtual coffee. It is not likely to have a 100% success rate, but you will make some new connections and may land a few one-to-one virtual meetings, which, in my experience, have led to personal introductions that have gone on to be very valuable.
- Host, moderate or present
The flip side of the previous point. To succeed at virtual networking you need to make yourself visible and be seen as a thought leader. By taking part you put yourself in front of the hundreds likely to watch live or on playback and you can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise through the discussion. I have added ESG and cyber risk management to my board skillset in the past 12 months and have appeared as moderator or panellist at three webinars on these topics in lockdown. The aim is, of course, to generate LinkedIn connection requests and suggestions of virtual coffee.
- Choose your events carefully
In the physical world, I used to select networking events carefully and the same should apply virtually. During the first lockdown I got sucked into many a weekly event whose attendees had little relevance to my search either by industry or geography but because I didn’t have to travel and I had the time, I joined. By the end of summer I had withdrawn from nearly all of them, finding it draining and pointless. Now I do fewer events, but those I do are more focussed on the sectors I want to work in, the size of business I want a role with and meeting the senior decision makers I want to meet.