Virtual conferences and meetings have become the new normal. Many people, myself included, miss the opportunity to travel and network in person.
Being an active participant in a conference, let alone a virtual one, isn't sufficient on its own to build your network. You should utilize what you've learned during the conference to contact specific professionals you think would make great additions to your network. So, how should you approach this?
Send an email
After the conference is over, decide who you want to contact, and email them as soon as you can.
Make sure your email:
- Is specific, short and a pleasure to read.
- Has an interesting question or a proposal.
- Has some kind of benefit to the person responding.
One way to organize your email:
- Paragraph 1—Greetings and pleasantries.
- Paragraph 2—Reason for writing.
- Paragraph 3—Question or request.
- Paragraph 4—"Look forward to" and ending.
Here’s an example of an excellent email to a panelist:
Dear Dr. Kariko,
Thank you for your presentation a few hours ago on mRNA technology and the effect it’s had on producing effective coronavirus vaccines. I found it surprising and insightful.
I’m in charge of drug discovery and protein purification at the Division of Autoimmune Diseases at WeCare Biotherapeutics. I’m currently working on a project related to the use of mRNA therapeutics for Multiple Sclerosis. I have a lingering question:
In your talk, you mentioned the reasons behind choosing lipid nanoparticles as the drug delivery vehicle for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine; however, if you were to choose a delivery system for an mRNA therapeutic, wouldn’t you prefer peptide-based delivery systems, since they overcome challenges like specific cellular targeting and sustained release of drugs?
I look forward to your response.
Panellists will get questions after their talk, but you can also email attendees. Networking at conferences is normal, and since we can't meet in person, emailing is the best choice.
If you're emailing an attendee, you can ask them what they thought about the conference. You can mention that you noticed that they work on a topic you’re interested in, or point out a question they asked.
You can do more than just ask a question. You can share interesting findings. Draw the person’s attention to something you know about. If it’s new to them and relevant, they will appreciate it. If they already know about it, then you have specific shared knowledge, and you can both remark on how amazing it is. For example, "Your comment on mRNA reminded me of this fascinating pre-print paper that I recently read: [link]."
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world on its head, but it seems that the shift to the virtual scene is here to stay. We should try to not only adhere to this novel phenomenon, but also take advantage of all the benefits of virtual gatherings.