It’s a conference you’re really excited for. You walk into the hotel the night before the sessions begin and approach the bar for a glass of wine or water. Now, it’s time to mingle.

“Networking — especially when you don’t know anyone — is a skill.

And it’s an important one. After all, when you’re surrounded by people who share your interests, you can make some great connections, even make new friends.

Jobs Board

But with events held online for now, we need to find ways to connect meaningfully via screens, and that’s not easy for everyone. So, how can you make the most out of your virtual networking opportunities? Try these tips.

Define your networking goal

Set a goal for networking before the conference begins. Look through the attendees list, including speakers, and select a few people you’d like to meet. Perhaps your goal is to connect with two startup founders and two people who work in the same area as you do.

Prepare your intro

You’ll need to introduce yourself to new people just as you would at a conference IRL. It might happen over chat messages or in a video call session. Make sure you have a succinct and interesting couple of sentences to describe yourself, especially if you are in a group video call where everyone is taking turns. Point out your professional background and goals, but also don’t forget to mention your hobbies and personal passions — that helps you form real connections.

Have questions ready

When you read a speaker bio that excites you, write down the questions you’d want to ask this person. Later, when you get the chance to meet this person in a more informal setting, you can turn to these questions to get the conversation flowing. If you feel nervous or intimidated, this type of preparation can be particularly helpful. What might you ask? You can ask about her favorite tech-related books or podcasts. Ask what she loves most about her work or what she thinks about a certain industry trend or news story. Play journalist with the new people you meet and connect with them on non-work topics as well, and you’ll be laying a strong foundation for a lasting relationship.

Use the event’s networking platform

If the event’s platform has a space specifically for networking and chatting, don’t shy away from it! Learn how to use it. One recent national conference held a “happy hour” session that invited attendees to mix and mingle with audio in a virtual representation of the university campus where the physical conference was supposed to have taken place. It resembled a video game and allowed attendees to wander around rooms and outdoor spaces like they would at a real conference.

At the Girls in Tech Conference, you can look up speakers and connect with them on LinkedIn, adding a note about something specific in their lecture that caught your attention. Interact with attendees on the social platform during the conference and be sure to connect on social media to keep the conversation going after the conference is over.

Follow and use the hashtag

Most events share a hashtag that attendees can include when posting on Twitter or Instagram. Search for the hashtag, and you’ll quickly find people to connect with over these social media platforms.  During the Girls in Tech Virtual Conference, be sure to follow #GITCON.

Network before and after the event

“You can start engaging with others at the conference before it begins.

Just like at a real conference, you might run into others who have just arrived at your hotel and end up grabbing dinner together the night before the conference. Online, you can introduce yourself, mention your goals for the conference and ask others why they signed up. It’ll be more fun to have a post-session discussion with attendees whose names you already recognize in the platform. Similarly, don’t let the end of the event be the end of your networking. Try to follow up with your new network friends a few days or weeks after the conference is over. You can start the conversation by asking if they’ve been able to implement anything they’ve learned in the conference.