Over the last several years, virtual networking has evolved and become an indispensable method for expanding and connecting with your network. Even before the pandemic, virtual networking tools were growing in use and acceptance. Social media sites such as LinkedIn and video conferencing, such as Skype and Zoom, were instrumental in helping us connect on a global scale.
However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, virtual networking experienced an unprecedented surge, solidifying its place as an expected and integral part of networking groups. Many organizations have embraced this shift, choosing to either adopt a hybrid model combining online and in-person interactions or transition to an entirely online format. This transition reflects the recognition of the value and convenience that virtual platforms offer in fostering connections and collaborations across distances.
While the core purpose remains the same – building relationships and expanding your sphere of influence – the execution varies significantly. Virtual networking introduces challenges like technological barriers, the lack of physical presence, and sometimes, the uncomfortable silence in a virtual room. Mastering the art of virtual networking requires adapting your skills to suit the medium. Review the skills and behaviors below to best prepare for your next virtual networking event.
• Be Punctual: Log in a few minutes early to ensure your technology is working properly.
• Check Your Audio and Video: Make sure your microphone, camera, and internet connection are in good working order. Use headphones to minimize unrelated noise.
• Stay Muted When Not Speaking: This minimizes background noise for other participants.
• Use a Professional Username: Your display name should be your full name or a professional variant.
• Use a Professional Profile Picture: If you have a profile picture associated with your account, make sure it is professional and appropriate for a business setting.
• Be Adaptive to Technical Issues: If someone is having technical difficulties, be patient and flexible.
• Professional Dress Code: Dress as you would for an in-person meeting. Avoid wearing overly casual attire.
• Check Your Background: Use a professional or neutral background. Check what other participants can see around and behind you. If necessary, use a virtual or blurred backdrop. This tool is available on most video conferencing platforms.
• Keep Your Device on a Stable Surface: Keep your computer or device on a flat, stable surface with your face clearly centered. Do not walk around or drive while in a video conference.
• Maintain Good Posture and Eye Contact: Sit up straight and look into the camera when speaking. This conveys engagement and professionalism.
• Use Professional Language: Be polite and avoid using slang or colloquialisms.
Communication and Engagement
• Introduce Yourself: When you join the meeting, greet everyone, and introduce yourself briefly. Speak clearly and concisely.
• Be Present and Avoid Multitasking: Pay attention to the speaker and don’t get distracted by emails, texts, or other tasks. Participants will notice your lack of attention.
• Use Non-verbal Communication: Nod and smile to show that you are engaged and listening.
• Participate Actively but Don’t Dominate: Contribute to the discussion but be mindful not to monopolize the conversation.
• Use Chat Wisely: Use the chat function for relevant comments and questions, not for side conversations.
• Be Mindful of Time: Be concise in your communication and respect the time constraints of the meeting.
Content and Focus
• Follow the Agenda: Stick to the topics discussed and avoid going off on tangents.
• Have Pen and Paper or a Notepad App Ready: Take notes of key points and contacts, it shows you value the information being shared.
• Don’t Overshare Personal Information: Be mindful of the line between professional and personal sharing, and don’t share too much personal information.
Professional Courtesy and Networking
• Respect Cultural Differences: Be mindful of the diversity of the participants and respect different perspectives and cultural norms.
• Say Thank You and Follow Up: Express gratitude at the end of the meeting and send follow-up emails to people you want to connect with further.
• Exit Gracefully: When the meeting ends, say goodbye and thank the host before leaving.
Virtual networking, while challenging, is an incredibly powerful tool in today’s world. By incorporating these tips and guidelines into your meeting preparations, you can confidently navigate any virtual networking event or meeting. At the end of the day, networking (whether physical or virtual) is about creating genuine human connection. Focus on building authentic relationships, and you will master the art of virtual networking.