Here are five tips to consider as you look at virtual networking
1. Consider the virtual platform you are using
Networking calls and meetings can still be very effective when done by phone and video. If you're doing the meeting by video, make sure you have a fairly strong internet connection. Video is the next best thing to in-person networking as you can see expressions and get a feel for how the conversation is going.
For those who have more than one camera or monitor, ensure that you look toward the right camera so that you are looking at the person. It’s much better to see the person you are speaking to looking at you, rather than off in a different direction.
If you’re using a virtual background, ensure that it's professional and not overly distracting. And, check to make sure there are no unusual filters set. Many have seen the viral clip of the lawyer and the cat face filter. Test everything before logging in to your meeting!
2. Dress professionally
Dress as you would if you were going to meet someone in their office — if the person you were meeting was working in a professional office, you would want to dress professionally, too. As I see it, networking over video doesn’t change things. If you are meeting someone to discuss employment opportunities or to simply have an informational interview, dress as if you were meeting them in person. I’m still amazed at how many people are attending professional meetings in hoodies!
3. Engage in networking event breakout rooms
There are many conferences and events that have been held virtually over the past year. Most of these events have included smaller group networking breakout rooms. A tip here is to be present when you are put in a breakout room and turn your camera on. Many people find these a bit awkward when they are suddenly on a screen with several strangers. Be an active participant to get the most out of these sessions. Ask questions, share perspectives and take note of people you may want to connect with offline.
4. Keep your network active while working virtually
Consider getting out of the four walls and networking throughout the year. You don’t always have to have a reason to reach out to your network and, in fact, it’s best if people hear from you when you don’t want something from them. Consider reaching out to people you haven’t spoken to for a while to find out how they are and just to connect. It will make it easier to get a meeting when you do need their assistance.
5. Think globally
In the past, in-person networking was often the most common way to connect with people. It took a little extra effort to reach your connections who lived in different cities or countries. Now that many of us are networking in a virtual environment, consider who you want to meet or reconnect with that lives further away from you. Expand your network to include people in different locations. If you do set up meetings with individuals in different cities or countries, be mindful of their time zones.
Networking is all about relationship building and maintenance. It can be easier to connect with more people when you don’t need to physically meet with them. Take advantage of this time of virtual working and connect!