How to make the most of online networking

by Philippa Constable on 18th Nov 2020

There’s no denying that online networking is the new normal and, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I believe that it is here to stay in some form even when life starts to get back to normal and we can meet more freely in person again.
I’m sure, like me, you are all looking forward to getting back to face to face meetings where we can enjoy a lunch together, swap business cards and event flyers and, hopefully in time, hug again. I’m also sure that some of you are enjoying this new world of virtual networking where we may have to make our own lunches but the travel costs are considerably lower!!
Whichever side of the fence you are on when it comes to your preferred method of networking, it’s great to see so many of you regularly joining the online meetings and taking the opportunity to visit groups that perhaps you couldn’t previously. 
One thing that is really clear to me with online networking is that, to get the most of it, there are certain things that we need to remember, things that we wouldn’t necessarily think about in a face to face environment. So, I’ve compiled a list of a few reminders for how to get the very best from your online networking experience.
Think about your background and lighting
If you were going to a face to face meeting you would really think about your appearance as to give the very best impression. This same rule should apply when networking online but as well as thinking about your own personal appearance you should also think about what the other attendees can see in your background. If you have a banner with your business details on it then that is ideal but if not try to set yourself up so you have a plain background that isn’t going to distract people away from what you are talking about. It’s also really important that people can see you clearly so make sure that you have adequate lighting.
Stay Engaged
It’s very easy to dip in and out of online meetings due to the ability to switch your mic and camera off. It goes without saying that there will often be more distractions when working from home and the urge to just step away to put the washing on or make a fresh cuppa will always be there, but try to resist this. There will usually be a five minute break where you can nip to the loo or top up your mug so try to wait until then before doing so. If your camera is constantly going on and off your fellow attendees will notice and it can be distracting for whoever is talking at the time.
Use the chat box
This is a great way to show other attendees that you are engaged and interested in what they have to say. You can use it to post words of encouragement, questions and share your own information with everyone in the meeting. Remember that the chat from each meeting can be saved so treat this as the virtual equivalent of handing out your business cards.

Follow up by arranging 121s with other meeting attendees
This is really important for building great business relationships but do make sure that the 121s are productive and the conversation is geared around learning more about each other and how you can help one another and potentially collaborate. 

Try to arrive at the meeting on time and stay for the duration. If you sign up for a meeting make sure that you are able to commit the time needed to be truly invested and if you book a meeting in advance and nearer the time realise that you can no longer make it please cancel yourself from that meeting with as much time as possible to allow the leaders time to plan knowing how many people to expect.
I hope these tips will help you to have the best possible experience when networking online. Do you have any tips to add to this list? If so, I’d love to hear them as this new world is a learning curve for everyone!

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