How to Network at Virtual AIHce EXP

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One of the benefits of attending a conference—aside from the chance to hone your skills by attending educational sessions—is the opportunity to network. With so many members of your profession in one place, conferences are ideal settings to forge friendships and professional connections and maintain or reestablish old ones.

This year, however, AIHce EXP won’t be held in a physical location, as a safety precaution amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Networking is still every bit as important to your career and professional development, but it must take place differently at a virtual conference compared to one occurring in person. You must find or create the networking spaces virtually that you would typically be able to visit physically.

Start by looking for chat and discussion forums offered by the Association. AIHA’s online community for IH/OHS professionals, Catalyst, now hosts a group for AIHce EXP 2020 attendees, where AIHA members can go to discuss what sessions they plan on viewing and what they’re looking forward to about the virtual conference. For AIHA members, Catalyst is a place to start reaching out to colleagues.

Networking can also take place over social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Create a private group, or a Twitter list, with other AIHce EXP 2020 attendees, to use as a platform to communicate before, during, and after the conference. Make use of the chat and messaging tools on these sites to hold fast-paced conversations with each other.

Many video conferencing platforms also have chat functions. During a session, you can communicate with the other attendees and the presenter—but make sure you don’t distract yourself or others. In fact, the internal chat functions are best for communicating with the presenter in a limited fashion, such as asking questions, but sessions can still offer a chance to be introduced to other attendees, and a jumping off point for future conversation. Keep an ear open for the names of people attending the session with you.

If you’ve already gotten in touch with someone you know will be attending a session with you, you might be interested in texting or messaging during the session or discussing it with them directly afterwards. Follow up with presenters afterwards at Q&A sessions or by connecting with them on social media.

AIHA is also offering a post-conference opportunity for attendees to join topical virtual meetings. These Zoom rooms will be available for those who reserve a space using the online signup form; select all the topics you’d like to attend. Invitations with the meeting link will be sent out the night before. In these special topic rooms, you’ll be able to network with other attendees and reflect on the sessions you’ve attended, as well as discuss challenges you might be facing.

Above all, maintain an optimistic attitude going into the newly virtual AIHce EXP 2020. For attendees who come prepared and with an open mind, virtual conferences can be every bit as productive as attending conferences in person.