Picture this: You’re logged into a virtual networking event with some of the biggest names and thought leaders in your industry. Your ring light is set to the perfect light temperature. Your external microphone is plugged in and working with Zoom’s technology. And your adorable but attention-hungry dog is happily distracted in the other room with a new toy.
Things are on track to be a successful event and it looks like you might walk away from the screen with a few networking opportunities or invites to virtual coffee. Then, the unthinkable happens. The host of the call turns himself into a cat. And he can’t figure out how to turn it off. After an awkward fit of frustration (and a few choice words he should have said on mute), he shuts down the whole event and you haven’t even had a chance to say your name or make a new connection.
While that scenario sounds far-fetched and funny, it’s not far off from what happens day in and day out on Zoom calls around the world. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the working world as we knew it catapulted itself into the future by making a work-from-home schedule the new normal for businesses of all types. Now, as the world slowly opens back up, many companies and corporations are exploring hybrid models that allow employees to work remotely or in the office.
Even if workplaces called for every employee to show up in person, at their desk, the era of virtual networking is here to stay thanks to Clubhouse, a mobile app where thought leaders host rooms of open discussion, social media sites like LinkedIn, and other virtual meetup hot spots like masterminds and forums.
So if virtual networking is here to stay, how can you protect yourself from uncomfortable awkward moments and embarrassing snafus?
Keep reading for our five best tips.
#1. Being Clear is Kind
Whether you’re leading, moderating or simply attending an online event, make sure you are being clear about what you’re saying. This means giving clear expectations of participants if you’re in charge (like “Please keep yourself muted during the presentation”) and keeping your sarcasm to a minimum if you’re a bystander. Remember, online live events are different than in-person events, so your natural charisma may not shine through. Striving for clarity during online discussions is an easy kindness to show your colleagues and potential connections.
#2. Mind Your Messaging
One major perk of virtual networking and online video calls is the ability to share messages instantly, whereas in a conference room it looks like passing notes. Instant messaging is a wonderful way to add enthusiasm during a presentation, share relevant resources, and build camaraderie. But it can take an awkward turn when you get caught talking about a person on the call by sending your note in the group chat. Protect yourself from potentially embarrassing and completely avoidable situations by watching who you are chatting with before you hit send. (Or promise to not talk about anyone to begin with because that’s just unprofessional.)
#3. Build Business Relationships, Not Friendships
Meeting someone online instead of in-person removes the invisible, but all too real, boundary of “I don’t really know this person.” Instead, you’re immediately sitting with them either in their home office or at their kitchen table. It’s easy to focus on their fun record collection sitting behind them or their fancy awards lined up on their bookshelf, and forget that you’re technically strangers. If you catch yourself overstepping a boundary, remind yourself that you’re meeting to build relationships for your business or brand. If you end up making a new friend after the call, that’s a bonus!
#4. Share Your Contact Information When Asked
You would never barge into a conference room full of strangers shouting your name and email address, right? So mind your manners when it comes to meeting people virtually, especially at a networking event. Your goal is to wow them by adding value to the conversation, and your contact information really won’t do that. Plus, if you wow them, they’ll have a reason to look you up.
#5. Dress for Success During Virtual Networking Sessions
Last but not least, we’re going to buck convention and encourage you to ditch the joggers. We’ve all seen the memes about business on the top and sweats on the bottom. But the truth of the matter is if you don’t feel put together, your confidence falters. We’re not saying you have to break out your power suit, but put on an outfit that makes you feel like yourself. Brush your hair, and add some makeup if that feels right to you. Then sign on to your webinar with confidence.
Making business connections is hard. Making them via virtual networking events is even harder. That’s why we created our Small Business Marketing Mastermind Facebook group, so you can meet people like you who are passionate about creating the business of their dreams. We love seeing new faces in the group, so consider joining us as a way to practice eliminating the awkward encounters online.