At Virtual Events, You Can Still Network Like a Pro

November 10, 2020

screenshot from lobby of NAR virtual conference

© National Association of REALTORS®

Real estate professionals are gifted networkers who have created new ways to forge connections in a virtual environment. The National Association of REALTORS® is employing that same spirit of innovation during its virtual 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo, happening now through Nov. 18. During the conference, NAR is offering a wealth of opportunities for conference participants to make real-time connections and build their businesses online.

Through MeetingPlay, a virtual conference platform, attendees at the NAR event can interact with other attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors in a variety of structured and informal ways. You can create a profile on MeetingPlay and indicate whether you want to be notified of networking opportunities throughout the conference. MeetingPlay will suggest possible networking matches, and you can search for possible connections. Attendees can book one-on-one meetings with other attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors via video chat and text chat.

Attendees are also invited to the following activities:

  • Daily “Hall Talk” Zoom chats in the virtual lobby kiosk.
  • Networking breaks Nov. 16-18 from noon to 12:30 p.m. CT, including roundtable discussions and group activities led by magician Rob Lake, sand artist Charlene Lanzel, and celebrity chef Nina Compton.
  • Global networking hours Nov. 17-18 from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. CT.
  • Virtual Expo hours Nov. 16-18 from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. CT, during which attendees can book meetings with exhibitors and join live demos.

Watch a short introduction video of the MeetingPlay virtual platform to learn the features available during the 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Nurturing Relationships Online

If you‘re still figuring out how to network online, a few seasoned pros with a wide virtual circle have some advice you can use even beyond the conference: Just jump right in. Tommy Choi, co-founder of the Weinberg Choi Residential team with Keller Williams Realty in Chicago, recommends reaching out to people proactively and offering yourself as a resource. He also advises letting people know when you admire their professional accomplishments. “Don’t shy away from reaching out,” Choi says. “Let the media be a conduit.”

After the conference, Choi plans to continue using Instagram Stories, his preferred virtual networking platform, which is designed for real-time photo and video sharing. (Read: Sales in Your DMs: The Power of Instagram Stories.) However, he says, the keys to successful virtual networking transcend any individual platform.

Virtual networking isn’t just a way to meet new people, Choi says; it’s also a way to reinforce and maintain established relationships. Despite the industry perspective that face-to-face interactions are the highest form of marketing, Choi says online contact can keep business relationships fresh. “A year from now, when you meet again, it’s not going to be that different,” he says.

But if you’re focused on connecting with new people, engage them on topics they have genuine interest in, says Kati Sasser, a sales associate at Florida’s Choice Realty in Jacksonville, Fla. Sharing things you like and enjoy online is a great way to meet people right in your own backyard, she says: “People aren’t necessarily on social media for business. I like to say, ‘Hey, I love this boutique.’ You can be a local ambassador and show your support for area businesses.”

Sasser says she has met loan officers, stagers, home inspectors, and other real estate pros on social media in what she calls a “nonsales” way. Sometimes those interactions translate into real-world business. “The people I’ve met really run the gamut,” Sasser says. “They represent all kinds of businesses. And I’ve worked with a few of them. It all started with posting online.”

Remember that it takes time to build relationships, so posting consistently and staying engaged with others over the long term is key, says Erin Stubbs, a sales associate with The Keyes Co. in Plantation, Fla. “It’s easy to make quality connections when you have the constant back-and-forth of liking and commenting on each other’s posts, photos, and stories,” Stubbs says.

She advises getting to know the platform you‘re using. Understanding the ins and outs of each forum or website—whether it’s social media or the MeetingPlay platform—can help you make the most of its features. For example, Facebook offers users the option to have both a personal page and a business page, and Sasser counsels pros to take advantage of both. “There are a ton of options to help you market yourself and your business,” she says. “Post often, and post an array of different content—not just your listings.”