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While quarantine meant events and job fairs were temporarily put on hold, going virtual brought about an entirely new way to meet people. It seems like entire industries are uniting to help those affected by the pandemic.

Training courses, networking events, even conferences are being moved online — many of which are now offered for free. Not only does this mean you have inexpensive access to cutting-edge presentations from key leaders in your field, but now you don’t even have to leave your house to attend them.

In a typical in-person setting, there might be lines of people standing between you and a keynote speaker. With a virtual conference, however, you have a platform to engage with them. Exclusivity is less of a barrier. Make way for webinars!

It’s no secret, people now have more time to spend online. And with that time comes accessibility. In this context, cold introductions are becoming commonplace. While your LinkedIn message may have previously gone unread, with a conference’s entire audience online, the playing field has been leveled. It isn’t just allowed, but now it’s expected.

The secret to leveraging these opportunities is a little bit of research into finding the right conferences and the ability to initiate with speakers and attendees afterward. These networking opportunities are out there, you just need to find them.

Get online. Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups about the topics you’re interested in (ie: Ladies Storm Hackathons).

But don’t stop there.

Once you discover the resources and virtual groups available in your industry, look for ways to stand out. Many people are still navigating how to establish a presence in an online forum. And even more people are afraid to ask questions. This leaves keynote speakers with a lack of audience engagement once overflowing at an in-person event.

Make a name for yourself and ask a question. Spark a new thread of conversations. Then follow up with the presenter following the event. At this point, they know who you are, and you have a reason to establish a relationship with them moving forward. Continue the conversation.

And then take it a step further.

Since you are already spending valuable time listening to presentations, ideally you believe you are gaining something from them. As such, consider taking notes. Spend a few extra minutes to type them up and then share your notes with any conference attendees interested. Invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn following the event if they would like a copy.

Better yet, create a blog post about a panel or presenter you found particularly insightful. Ask them questions. In fact, when you follow up with the speaker, send a draft link to an article you wrote about their presentation. Many smaller-scale speakers will be flattered that you found so much value in their content and may be thrilled at the prospect of having an article written about them. (You can check out some of my examples of conference blogging here and here.)

Differentiate your blog post by writing about your personal experience and sharing what you learned from the presentation. But be sure to ask if the presenter you are writing about has any changes they would like to make before you publish it. Most of the time, any changes they suggest will only strengthen your piece.

They worked hard to create their presentations, so give credit where credit is due. This extra step goes a long way in ensuring that you handle yourself professionally and show respect to the speakers you choose to write about. Additionally, I’ve found that by reaching out, speakers are sometimes willing to share their slide decks and headshots with you.

Application

Another benefit of virtual conference blogging is that you already have a platform of individuals interested in your topic and a respected name to propel your piece further. Use hashtags from the conferences you attend. As you conference blog, you’re establishing credibility with a wider audience who can connect you to new resources.

Finally, cross-posting is essential. I would initially publish my articles on LinkedIn and then repost them to Medium with a few minor changes. This allowed me to gain more exposure on LinkedIn. However, this strategy is not as effective if you are hoping to make a larger profit off your posts.

The biggest thing I have learned over the last several months is that your heroes are available. Hop on LinkedIn and comment on your favorite author’s recent article or post. Attend a virtual event and write about it. Establish yourself within your field. You might be surprised by who responds to your efforts.

This article was originially published on Medium.