Virtual Networking - Things I’ve Learned (so far!)
This blog post is a reworking of my last post about networking, but focused on the specific tips for virtual networking. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, over 18 months ago, I have had to reimagine how I can meaningfully connect with people without being in-person. There are many drawbacks to virtual networking compared to in-person meetings, but there are some advantages.
The biggest silver lining to virtual events is the ease of “getting there”—just power up your computer, or phone and you are in the room! No need to drive all over, find and pay for parking, deal with traffic and the sheer hassle of driving in the Bay Area. It’s better for the environment AND your mental health!
As a person who needs a high amount of social interaction, the lockdown was really hard on me (albeit a necessary evil!). Being able to see and connect with people on a regular basis was a huge boon for my mental health. I see networking as a natural way of being in the world and realize I have always done it. I have always been interested in meeting new people, learning who they are, what they do and care about and how I can help them. I have always put people in touch with others they could benefit from knowing.
When I network for my business, I do the same thing—foster connections in an effort to be part of a greater community and figure out how I can be of service in it. Of course, it helps that I believe in my product and know it is high-quality and can help a lot of people.
My top tips about virtual networking:
THE BASICS— I set up my Zoom profile to show my name, and business name. I have a saved template for adding my basic card information into the chat box. I always ask the organizers of the event to send out a list of the attendees so I can have all the contacts for follow up. AND I always have a pad of paper and pen handy for taking notes during the event!
WIN-WIN RESULT— During breakout rooms and more intimate conversations, I focus on what I can do for the other person first as a way to build rapport and trust. This is the fastest way I have found to create a good impression.
IDENTIFY GOAL—Before each event or meeting, I think about what I want to achieve. Do I want to meet lots of new people or focus on developing relationships? In virtual events, I can write down the goals at the top of a pad and refer to it throughout the event.
QUESTIONS I ALWAYS ASK—How did you get involved in your current business? What’s your backstory?
RESEARCH IN ADVANCE—When possible, I check out the list of attendees (when available by the event organizers) and figure out who I want to make sure I meet. I also do a little internet research via Linked In to find out about contacts. These lists are much more readily available now that we are all online!
BE SELECTIVE IN CHOOSING EVENTS TO ATTEND—It is very important to budget my time wisely as it is impossible to attend every event I would like to. With virtual events, I can “attend” more events since the commute time is nonexistent! That is one silver lining of the pandemic.
BE AWARE OF IMPRESSION I AM CREATING —When I first appear on the screen, I make sure I am smiling and ready to greet the other attendees. I have set my Zoom account to require me to click on the video so I can be ready. I relax my shoulders and stop squinting so it doesn’t look like I am scowling!
TALK UP OTHER PEOPLE I KNOW (TESTIMONIALS)—I love to compliment other peoples’ work and business. None of us ever hear enough good feedback and I want to do my part to boost my community.
LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN—Whenever I ask a question, I make sure I LISTEN to the answer. This was something I had to actively strive to do as being in a group event, virtual or in-person, can be very distracting. If someone gets cut off, I make sure I circle back around to their point.
And last, FOLLOW UP!— I make an effort at the end of the week to look over my events to make sure I have completed any tasks I agreed to do (referring by email, etc). This is so important to remember, is the key to successful networking and is easy to forget to do. Of course, it is better to do any follow up as soon as the event is over. But, life gets crazy and so my weekly Friday check-in with myself is the absolute deadline for follow up on any networking tasks—whether that is setting up a one-to-one meeting, or performing some email introductions for people I met that week. I enjoy the half hour I schedule on Fridays as an intentional way for me to wrap up my week, get organized for the next week, and think about what happened during the past week.
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