Do you know the proper social etiquette for virtual networking? Do you know how to network in the virtual world without feeling awkward or inadequate, so you come across as confident and charming?

Neither do I.

This whole virtual networking business is new to most of us. The majority of us have never lived through a pandemic. Networking in person used to be the rule — now it’s the exception.

I’ve taken part in and helped organize some recent virtual networking events and gleaned a few insights that you might find helpful. In case you’ve yet to take part in one, a virtual networking event is just what it sounds like — you pull up a virtual chair at a virtual table and join in a conversation with other members of your industry. These are quick chats, like speed dating — not business meetings. The idea is to get to know others, just like at a real-life networking event.

If you remember the following, I’m confident you’ll have an easier and more comfortable time of it.

No one there is any more experienced than you. Like I said, we’re all new at this. Virtual networking can be as awkward as in-person networking. There can be awkward silences, just like in the “real” world. Part of the fun is learning together. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know, I’ve never done this before.” Chances are the person you’re talking to will say the same thing in response!

Temper your expectations. Don’t expect every conversation to result in a business transaction. That’s not the idea. If the conversation is going well you can reach out and message them or set up a private meeting to have a more in-depth conversation, just like you would in person.

Make an effort. In the virtual world it’s easy to become apathetic. You might not want to put the same amount of effort into virtual networking as you would “real” networking. It can take conscious effort to make the most of it. At an in-person event someone might walk by and see you and spark up a conversation. In the virtual world you can’t do that — you have to consciously jump in.

Become familiar with the technology the event is using. Don’t assume it’s over Zoom. It could be a different platform altogether. Log on early and get used to using the software. Think of it like arriving early to an in-person event. In the virtual world it usually doesn’t pay to be “fashionably late.”