Whether you're an undergrad exploring your career options or a businesswoman considering post-MBA opportunities, your next virtual event could have a big impact on your future. Today, many admissions programs and recruiters are using online platforms to connect with candidates — and holding events virtually often means they attract more people than ever before. Want to stand out from the crowd? Before the event, take time to prepare. Most of the preparation for a virtual event or conference is very similar to what you would do for an in-person event, but at a virtual event, there are technical considerations, too. Research the company or school, and know who you'll be meeting. Participating companies will typically be listed on the event platform beforehand. Use that information to familiarize yourself with their work, including any recent news. Reach out a few days in advance. If there are a few companies you’re really hoping to connect with during the event, email them beforehand and request a one-on-one conversation. This shows initiative and puts you on their radar. Perfect your "pitch." Be ready to mention two or three ways you would add value to a particular company or MBA program. When they say, “Tell me about yourself,” they’re really asking, “What can you do for me, and why should I hire you instead of someone else?” It’s an opportunity to highlight the key strengths you possess that will make them want to talk to you more in the future. Prepare a few questions. Ask questions that will allow you to identify the pain points at a particular company or MBA program. If you can figure out what they need and want as opposed to what you need and want, you can package your experience and skillset to align with those needs. That’s how you move from being a strong candidate to an ideal candidate. Update your resume and LinkedIn. Even if the event organizers compiled a resume book that includes your resume, you may have a few updates since you submitted it. Be sure your resume and LinkedIn profile reflect your transferable skills and show that you’re ready to succeed in this virtual world. Check in with Forté’s community of talented women leaders. Connect with Forté Fellows or other Forté role models who work in your industry or are alumnae of the school you’re considering. They may have valuable insights. Test your setup. Find out what platform the event or conference is using and download it in advance to make sure it works on your computer. If you have a personal profile on the platform, log in and fill it out in advance. If there’s a tutorial, watch it. Make sure you know how to do anything you might want to do during the event. Check how you look and sound on video. Are your camera and microphone working properly? Test them and adjust your settings if necessary. Check that there’s nothing distracting in the background when your camera is on. Is the camera at a good height? If not, adjust it by putting something under your computer or moving to a different location. Have a professional background. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to be in a professional setting for the event — you can use a virtual background. Choosing a virtual background that says something about you (For example: A campus image that includes your graduation year) can make you more memorable. Be sure to test it ahead of time. If you don’t have a professional-looking virtual background, download one of ours! What to do during the event. Log in before the event is scheduled to start. Even if you’ve tested everything, last-minute technical issues may come up, and you don’t want to miss the beginning. Shut off any potential distractions. If you’re participating in the event or conference on your laptop, silence your phone for the duration. Participate. Take advantage of the platform’s features to chat, post, and ask thoughtful questions. (It’s easier to ask good questions when you’ve prepared them in advance, so have your list handy.) Be as active as possible. Take notes. To avoid forgetting someone’s name or a key piece of information you may want to refer back to, write it down. During one-on-one connections, take note of a few points of connection during the conversation, so that you’ll be able to be specific in your follow-up message. Following up after the event. Send a thank you email. Time your follow-up message strategically; it’s not always best to contact a recruiter or hiring manager right after an event. They often get flooded with messages at that time, so waiting 24-48 hours can be the difference between being the only email in their inbox and the 50th. Ask follow-up questions. In your message, share specific points from the conversation and ask a follow-up question or two. This will encourage an open and continuing conversation. Connect on LinkedIn. If your new contacts are open to it, connect with them on LinkedIn. Share a post about the industry or their firm to show your interest in a unique way. While you’re at it, be sure you’re following Forté!