Virtual networking is a great way to connect with others from the comfort of your home. Here are some tips to make sure your virtual networking experience is a good one.
1. Plan Ahead
Take time to think about what you wish to communicate. You will have a limited time to share information with others, make sure this time is used productively. Gather as much information about the event and other participants as possible before the event begins so you will know what to expect.
Test the technology before the event if possible. Ensure the lighting is good. Don’t sit with your back to a window (you will be backlit and people won’t be able to see you or your facial expressions clearly). Consider investing in a desktop halo light (approx. $50 online). Wear ear buds to reduce noise. Ideally connect from a laptop or desktop computer.
2. Arrive Early for the Meeting
The host will appreciate that you showed up on time, you’ll feel more relaxed and present and you won’t be disrupting the flow of the meeting by having to be added later. During the few minutes while you’re waiting for the host to start the meeting, take time to test your sound and video (if this option is provided), review your notes about what you wish to share and your open-ended questions and be sure to keep a positive disposition and a smile on your face.
3. Think About What You’ll Wear
You never get a second chance to create a first impression in person or online. Dress as you would for a regular business meeting. Remember that most people will only see the top half of your outfit, so be sure the top half looks good on camera when you’re sitting down and be sure to wear pants or a skirt in case you are asked to stand up or need to get up to get something during the meeting while the camera is on.
4. Have a Great Introduction
Introduce yourself in a way that invites others to want to learn more about you and your business or services. Tell people what problem you solve for others e.g. “In my coaching practice, I help people who are sick of feeling stuck, confused or overwhelmed, get clarity on what living an more inspired life looks like and support them as they take steps to make this vision a reality.” This often leads them to ask “That sounds interesting, how do you do that?” and this leads into a discussion about my workshops and 1-on-1 coaching services.
5. Bring Your Most Positive Self
Be sure to smile as you connect with others, it will help put others at ease and you’ll feel more positive. Keep the conversation focused on positives. Avoid getting into negative discussions and bring the conversation back to positives if drifts in that direction with an open-ended question e.g. “Let’s focus on something positive – tell me what you enjoy most about your business/career” (see more examples below).
6. Be Generous and Considerate
Be aware of the time constraints and don’t monopolize all the air-time for yourself. This should be a two-way conversation. You don’t have to share everything about you and what you do in the limited time you have. You both need to share enough to know whether it makes sense to keep the conversation going after the virtual networking event. Think of how you might be able to support this person, or if there is someone else you know that you could introduce them to, who might be an even better fit to support them? Be sure to thank them for meeting with you.
7. Use Open-Ended Questions
The purpose is to encourage dialogue and get to know a little about one another. An Open-ended question cannot be answered with a Yes or No answer. Here are a few examples that may work for you:
“ What do you enjoy most about the work you do?”
“What does your ideal customer/client look like?”
“What would you say is the biggest positive difference others experience from working with you?”
“What new opportunities have opened up for you as a result of everything that’s going on in the world today?”
8. Be a Good Listener
Go into this conversation with an open mind and really listen to what the other person is sharing. This is not an opportunity for you to do a sales job on the other person. You’re each simply exploring whether this is a dialogue you wish to continue after the networking event. Acknowledge that you’ve heard them say with a nod of the head, or statements such as “I get that” “I hear you” “It’s so interesting that you say that” “I hadn’t looked at it that way before”.
9. Be Prepared to Follow-Up
If the initial conversation goes well, you’ll want to follow up and you can anticipate that the person you’ve met will check out your website and your LinkedIn profile. Be sure both are current and reflect positively on you. If this was a good connection for you, check out their website and invite them to connect on LinkedIn. You may also want to forward information about your products and services – have this material ready.
Even if the conversation doesn’t result in a relationship you wish to develop, be sure to thank the person for their participation and if you have a link to an article, resource or contact that you believe may help them, offer that to them. Depending on your networking strategy, you may still choose to invite them to connect on LinkedIn.
When you know you’ll be attending a networking event, it’s always good practice to set aside time later that day or the following day for your follow-up activities.
Sue Maitland PCC is a passionate advocate for the benefits of building a strategic network, an especially valuable skill for people in life or career transition. She speaks and leads workshops on this topic regularly. Check eventbrite or the Live Events page of her website http://www.suemaitland.com/events for upcoming events.