By Debra Allcock Tyler, CEO, DSC
My capacity for networking has been revolutionised by the pandemic – because our world is now so virtual. So many of the anxieties and embarrassment I used to feel networking at, for example, conferences, simply don’t exist for me in the virtual world.
Whilst at an in-real-life conference you can look at a delegate list and spot the names of folks; trying then to find them in the physical room is really hard – especially if you don’t know what they look like. And not even I feel comfortable stalking the room staring at people’s chests to see their badge to check if it’s the person I want to talk to! And even if you do find them, plucking up the courage to accost them when they might be in mid conversation with someone is really hard!
But in virtual conferences it’s so much easier. You can see who’s there in the participant list, they will usually have their name at the bottom of the screen, and there is no fear of the worry of interrupting them because if you send them a DM or a chat message it’s not getting in their way.
Digital networking really does take away so much of the embarrassment and awkwardness of speaking to people you don’t know. Nowadays no one bats an eyelid if someone posts a message in a chat saying hi and introducing themselves. And yet at the many digital conferences I attend, so few folk seem to do that. Obviously, I don’t see the private messages – but there are usually very few public ones which if folk were taking advantage of the opportunity to see and be heard you would imagine you would see more of.
Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert (or however else you label yourself) virtual networking can be a godsend, provided you do some of the basics.
- Always have your camera on. If they can’t see your face they won’t remember you and it makes it harder to connect with them.
- Make sure you have your full name, job title and organisation labelled on your screen – it makes it easier for folk to locate you, look you up and communicate with you.
- Always introduce yourself in the chat when you log into an online conference.
- Comment in the chat as the day goes on – although NEVER anything negative about the speaker or the content – that just switches people off.
- Make the most of being virtual by googling those you want to connect with to make sure you know something about them so if you do connect with them you make it clear you know something about them.
- If there’s someone you particularly want to connect with message them. Most virtual conference platforms allow you to DM fellow participants. Don’t be afraid to do that. If they don’t want to respond they won’t. And if they do they will.
- Be memorable and noticeable by showing facial emotions – laughing, smiling, nodding and physically clapping get you noticed.
- Make good use of the reactions function – likes, claps, thumbs up. Again, it gets you noticed and remembered and makes it easier for folk to connect with and remember you.
Make the most of this virtual world – you’d be amazed at the supporters you can attract, the friends you can make and the collaborations you can start with a few clicks of a mouse!
Want to know more? I’ve written a book all about networking, take a look here!