Although the issues surrounding COVID-19 have changed life as we know it, some positive takeaways are still possible. The shift to telecommuting, remote entrepreneurialism, and online networking is undoubtedly at the top of that list.
The past twenty years have brought us several online tools to encourage collaboration. Networking has often resisted that trend for a variety of reasons. Some people prefer a handshake and a smile in person, while others feel uncomfortable with the use of so much technology.
As we all get used to this new version of normal, we must learn how to use tools like Zoom appropriately. That means it is imperative to follow the dos and don’ts of online networking to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
How to Make a Positive First Impression Through Online Networking
The best way to approach online networking is to treat this relationship-building opportunity in a similar manner to an in-person event. If you wouldn’t go to the Chamber of Commerce without any pants, then don’t try to get away with that activity at home!
Here are some of the other ways that you can work toward a guaranteed first impression through your online networking efforts.
1. Do fill out your networking profile in its entirety.
Think of your profile as the 30-second elevator pitch that you’d typically offer in person. This content is usually the first impression given to others. Focus on what you do and why instead of trying to sell your stuff to others in this space. You are promoting yourself as a brand for others to consider.
2. Do be yourself during an online networking opportunity.
People get caught up trying to be the best version of themselves when meeting new people. The only trouble with that approach is that it isn’t 100% authentic. If you try to fake your way into a relationship, then that behavior is a violation of the trust you want to build. Even if it feels uncomfortable, your best option is always to be yourself. It is a lot easier to tell the truth when honesty is your only policy.
3. Don’t leave your camera on at all times.
Having a camera on during a networking event can let others see your face and engage in conversation. It can also make it seem like the safety of your home environment is still present. Turning your camera off can be a blessing so that you can snag that itch, which is in a spot that others don’t need to see you itching. If your computer or phone doesn’t have the option to turn off the video to the call, then step off the screen to take care of your business.
4. Don’t mix personal issues with business networking.
When you work from home full-time, the lines between your personal and career needs can start blurring. You might find yourself talking about work to your spouse and using a networking opportunity to discuss why your family is driving you nuts! Even though the days of COVID-19 can sometimes cause us to forget what day it is, we must maintain separation between personal and professional needs. Keep both options in their designated lane.
5. Do check your spelling if you type.
Using Zoom or another video conferencing tool can eliminate the need for typing and texting. Some conversations might start up on the side that involve instant messaging during a networking event. It is during those moments that you will want to us a spellchecking tool to ensure that you are saying what you intend to convey. Several tools can install in your preferred browser so that errors get picked out right away.
6. Don’t let your background be a complete mess.
Zoom offers a tool that enables you to use whatever background you prefer for a video networking opportunity. Although you should keep that image professional, it is a simple way to cover the mess that might be in the background of your space. Seeing clutter during a professional event can send the wrong message to someone! If you don’t want to mess with the settings on your preferred app, then use the trick that you see on TV all of the time. Have a conversation in front of your bookcase.
7. Do keep trying.
Persistence is what separates the contenders from the pretenders in this new era of online networking. If something doesn’t go right, then try again! Most people have the patience and grace to understand that we’re all adapting to a change in circumstances. If you don’t receive that respect, then move on to the next conversation.