How to Network Like a Pro at an Online Vet Conference
People often blur the lines of networking and socializing. Although vets love going to events and meeting people, given the choice, some prioritize catching up with old friends before expanding their professional network. Small talk and the stigma associated with “networking” can be cringe-inducing, especially for introverts.
What’s more, at major events like our US Vet Shows, you’re already splitting time between conference sessions and meeting exhibitors; all the while the nagging feeling that you should be networking is at the back of your mind. But there’s no escaping it. As proven over and over again: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Networking really will move you forward in your veterinary career.
But how do you network at an online event (like Vet Show @ Home)? The good news is, even the strongest anti-networkers can be converted...and it’s even easier online! Walk away from your next veterinary online event with valuable contacts for future clinical support, job searches and academia links. All it takes is preparation and practice.
Choose the networking for your needs
If you have painful memories of networking in the past, that event wasn't right for you. At online events, networking happens everywhere—not just at the dedicated networking functions. If you really enjoyed a particular conference session, introduce yourself to the speaker and ask a question via the Q&A box. Really like a new piece of technology you see in an online exhibition booth? These people are literally there to talk to you, so get chatting! In a session with specialist content? Swap details with participants in the chat function. These people will be implementing session outcomes at the same time you are and will be great to turn to for advice.
If you really struggle talking with strangers, Vet Show @ Home makes networking fun and easy by using AI-powered matchmaking to pair you up with fellow vets and industry professionals based on things you share in common, like the university you attended, year you graduated, specialty, and more.
Shift your mindset
An open mind and a positive outlook will go a long way when networking. Remind yourself that:
You are a successful, competent and educated professional and really do have a lot to offer to someone else’s network (be gone, impostor syndrome!)
The other people in the event are there for the same reason you are. Everyone wants to meet new people and expand their networks.
On top of this, set a goal for your event such as “I’ll talk to two people in a specialty I’m interested in,” “I’ll reconnect with three people from my alumni class,” “I’ll offer advice to at least one young vet or student.” That way, you’ll feel accomplished when you hit your goal and you’ll start to associate networking with success.
The hard part
The best way to start a conversation is to introduce yourself, but the hardest part of networking is the first move. In person, remembering to listen closely and memorize important details can be tricky if you’re nervous. The great thing about online networking is that you don’t even have to worry about remembering the other person’s name and details, because it will be written out for you online! By being the first person to ask questions, you take the pressure off yourself and will relax into conversation. Here are some open-ended questions to get you going:
How do you like working for your practice?
What’s your primary role at your practice?
What type of CE are you here for?
Are you enjoying the event?
If you’ve had a good conversation with another professional or exhibitor, you may want to follow up to continue networking with them via email or LinkedIn. Instagram is also becoming more and more popular among veterinary professionals.