I recently received a question from a reader regarding networking tips for a virtual business meeting. I have included my response below for those who will be navigating a similar online environment in the near future.
Throughout the year, I look forward to my employer’s annual networking function. It allows me to meet new people, put faces to names and forge valuable business relationships. We were recently informed this year’s coordinators have decided to shift the function to a web-based platform. Although this will connect employees and clients from other offices, I am concerned about forming professional bonds. How can I implement the skills I have learned from face-to-face networking in a different way? Is there a specific protocol to keep in mind? Any tips and tricks would be appreciated!
Formulating a plan to get the most out of the event is a great place to start. This will help to ensure a productive and positive experience. As with traditional networking, time is limited to engage with other participants.
Here are a few pointers for making the most of online networking events:
Perform a tech test run.
You will likely receive a link to the meeting platform in advance. Take a few minutes to see if there are any plug-ins/apps you will need to install on your computer. You will not want to waste valuable time with any technology hiccups. Remember to customize your bio with your best professional photo and other pertinent information. If video chat is offered, check your webcam and microphone for optimal delivery.
Identify key contacts.
Are there clients you would like to interact with or colleagues from other locations? Make a list in order of importance so you are sure not to miss anyone. From the moment you login, you will have a sense of purpose and a clear direction.
Have conversation starters prepared in advance.
When you reach out to someone, begin with a warm opening and ask open-ended, thought provoking questions. Your notes will serve as a guide, and with an online gathering, you may have more of an opportunity to take a quick glance without giving yourself away. For Skype set-ups, consider a second window pre-loaded with pertinent notes, so you are not looking away from the screen.
Let your personality shine.
Doing so creates an upbeat and engaging tone. Although you are not meeting in person, bring as much enthusiasm as you normally would. The right approach aids in delivering a positive impression.
Keep your communication first-rate.
Avoid using slang, emoticons and internet acronyms. Steer clear of LOLs and smiley faces in a business environment. The same goes for typing in ALL CAPS or failing to punctuate your messages.
Maintain the connection.
You will want to remain top of mind so contacts can easily find you when an opportunity presents itself. Take the conversation offline by reaching out and following up by email, phone, lunch or a short meeting.
Best of luck,