Friday Digital Roundup
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Online Networking Events – The ‘New Normal’?
But since lockdown people have started using technologies such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and our new favourite –Remo for everything from meetings to book clubs, virtual film nights, and lunchtime hangouts with friends.
And with traditional face-to-face networking on hold, online networking meetings using video conferencing have become hugely popular and they look like they’re here to stay.
We’ve all found out that just because you can’t shake hands doesn’t mean you can’t network.
It’s become clear that we can still connect with new people, find business opportunities, and work on strategic relationships without actually meeting in person.
Networking can be hugely important for small businesses so many networking groups have moved their events online. But with these changes there have been questions about the ‘norms’ of this new way of networking for business.
There’s talk that some of the larger networks might keep the online element and some might even use it to replace physical in-person networking completely.
Like it or not, online networking has stepped up and taken the limelight.
So here are some tips for your online networking which I hope you’ll find useful. Feel free to let me know of anything I’ve missed out in the comments at the end of the blog.
Online Networking Events – The ‘New Normal’?
Before you start networking online
- Make sure everyone else in your house is aware you’re on a video call and that they’re not to come in unless someone’s bleeding heavily or something’s on fire.
- Make sure you have a simple background behind you to reduce distractions. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you about the MP who was spotted with some interesting right-wing reading material on his bookshelves. Some people use virtual backgrounds, but your computer might need a higher spec processor for that to work.
- Find a quiet and comfortable space to sit. Grab some water and a notebook/pen if you’ll need them. I usually bring a snack too, if it’s a long meeting.
- If you face a window, you’ll get best light on your face. This isn’t always possible when you’re at home, but consider your lighting as you may need to turn on an extra ceiling light or lamp so you can be seen clearly. If it’s really dark, grab some ‘softbox lights’ from Amazon or a ring light.
- If you haven’t used the tech before, check that your computer works with the application. Most will on-board you and help you test it out.
- Usually your laptop or tablet will have a built-in microphone, camera, and speakers. If you’re using Zoom, launch it a minute or two before a call to check and test your equipment. In the desktop app, click your profile image > Settings > Audio. Choose the right input and output for your audio and mic. Test them. Then navigate to video and do the same for your camera.
- If you use the internal camera on your laptop, use a riser or books or anything to raise the camera up to eye level. Otherwise you’re looking down at your viewers. Think ‘newsreader’ and you’ll have the right camera set-up/view.
- Use headphones if you have them. As an Apple fangirl I have Airpods which are brilliant. Even an inexpensive pair is better than nothing as it makes the sound so much better for everyone.
- When you click on the web link to join the meeting it will download and run the Zoom program before you can join the conference, so just be prepared for that. This will happen for other software and most software is being updated a lot recently so resist the temptation to rock up 30 seconds before the eventm as you may well need to update before you can get in!
During your online networking event
- Mute your mic when you’re not talking. If you have children, pets, or frequent unexpected noises in your environment, it can be a bit distracting for the others. That said, we’re all now a lot more accepting of interruptions with so many more people working from home. Get yourself familiar with the controls as you would in a new car. The mute mic button is like the hazard button in your car – you might need to find and click it fast so practice getting to it quickly.
- Try to look at the camera when you’re speaking. This feels odd and you’ll probably instinctively look at people’s faces, but this won’t offer ‘eye contact’ to them. Give it a go but don’t be afraid to look around and up when you’re thinking. Natural is OK, too.
- Have a Word document with links to your website/Facebook page/groups etc. that you can copy and paste and put in the chat so other attendees can have quick access to your online presence etc. Only post them when appropriate so maybe straight after your 1-minute pitch. Don’t post stuff about yourself when it’s someone else’s turn.
- You can often chat with each other in the meeting but be aware that the meeting host can view a complete transcript of all messaging, potentially even the private ones. Keep it to exchanging contact details so you can connect elsewhere, rather than slagging off the organiser! Head to WhatsApp for that!
- If you do need to get up and leave, I think it looks more professional to turn off camera and have your photo or logo temporarily. Certainly, make sure you’re on mute, especially for toilet trips that no one else wants to hear. (Yes, a famous politician has done that too and those wireless AirPods can catch you out, too!)
The rest of it all follows the normal ‘rules of engagement’ at a networking event.
- Try and listen carefully without interrupting
- Think about what referrals you can offer
- Follow up afterwards to build the connection.
Want to know what pisses Todd off about Zoom meetings?
You can find his list here along with some ‘helpful’ ‘Zoom Bingo’ cards so you can have a laugh shaming your colleagues and friends!
Want even more tips on networking?
- Here are nine hot tips for networking newbies.
- Here’s a guide to small business networking for introverts.
- Todd has also written a blog about Zoom faux pas here.
You’ve probably heard that Zoom and other platforms can be exhausting. Here are some tips on Zoom fatigue which you may find useful.
Online networking from Spaghetti Agency…
If this hasn’t put you off too much, perhaps you’d like to join us on Friday afternoons at our virtual pub?
It’s way less informal than Zoom networking, and the only rule is that you must bring a drink of your choice.
Find out more here.
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