A current theme bears repeating: After social distancing, we will emerge into a world where the rules of the game have changed. Thriving in this “new normal” will require refining tried-and-true skills, and developing new techniques for a new environment.
One of the skills that many people worked hard on in the past is networking. Myriad classes taught the art of exchanging cards and following up to establish business relationships. Obviously, under quarantine, traditional networking events are not possible, and it isn’t clear how keen people will be to meet face-to-face in a room full of strangers once restrictions are lifted.
Ingenious business people are looking for new ways of connecting, and video conferencing technology offers some interesting opportunities, both for event organizers and audience members. In this article I focus on Zoom because it is my preferred technology and the one my clients use most often.
Recently, my days have been filled with Zoom calls, and I find that I spend a lot of time observing the other attendees, whether I am an audience member or the presenter. I compiled a list of things to be aware of for myself, and am passing them as tips to you.
A bit of up-front planning and awareness will make Zoom a potentially effective networking strategy for you. Here are five easy ways you can skillfully use this or maybe other video conferencing platforms to effectively network:
- Display your full name, your company name or your contact information. You will waste an opportunity for people to connect with you if your screenname is iPad2. (I require participants in my groups to display first name and last name.) Keep your video on so that people can see your face, but mute your audio to limit background noise.
- Scan the participant list. If you see someone new you’d like to connect with, open LinkedIn, and send a message that you were at the same presentation and you’d like to connect. (Don’t immediately try to sell them something or set up a meeting. That is a surefire way to get blocked. Instead, give them a mutually beneficial reason for why you are requesting the connection.
- If there is someone you know on the call send him or her a message indicating that you are in the audience. You can follow up with a detailed message later. (Anyone who downloads the chat can see your comments, even your private messages. As with any digital technology, don’t communicate anything that would embarrass you if it became public.
- Are you being recorded? Does it matter if you pay attention? People can see you, so your behavior and attitude matter. If you want to suggest an attentive, interested presence, don’t constantly check your phone or walk away from the computer.
- Be aware of your presentation. If you are using zoom for business, you want to present as a professional. Are you dressed for the image you want to project? Is your environment tidy? How is the light around you? (A pet peeve of mine is people who have fans spinning in the background and overhead lights that shine into my eyes. That tells me they haven’t paid much attention to who will be watching them.)
The utility of video conferencing has exploded into the public consciousness. People who may have resisted using this technology in the past are understanding its utility, and those who are experimenting with it for networking purposes are opening a new avenue of connection.
Ingenuity leading the way, again.