There has never been a more important time to get to grips with online networking video calls. The world looks very different from both a personal and professional perspective for the moment, and the most important thing is to stay safe.
Despite the drastic changes the fight against COVID-19 has brought though, work (for many of us) does go on. For a lot of business owners, this means switching up their communication from in-person to virtual options.
Many networking events are currently moving from their usual bricks and mortar locations to an online space. This proactive move means participants avoid missing out on promoting their brands and making new connections.
If video networking is something you are new to, and the idea of an online event sends a shiver down your spine – fear not! You are far from alone. Here are some of my top tips for before, during and after a networking video call.
A quick note before we get started.
Right now, most of us are in limbo (to some degree). With that in mind, it’s worth saying that one of the best things you can do when it comes to online networking at the moment is to relax. Working from home means a lot of us are far from in the “perfect” environment for video calls.
You might not have access to absolutely everything you’d have to hand in the office, your wifi might not be as quick, or a child or spouse might even pop up in the background. Try your best to avoid noise and interruptions, but take the pressure off. We’re all just doing our best!
Best Practice for Online Networking Video Calls
BEFORE: Be prepared
It sounds obvious, but one of the most important things you can do is ensure you are fully prepared for your call. Think about how you would approach an in-person networking event and use that as a basis for how you prep for an online version!
1. Be on time: If you’ve agreed to participate in a video call at 11am, don’t just sit down at your laptop to log in at 10.57! If you were travelling to a networking event in person, you’d allow time for traffic or public transport delays, so do the same for technology. Allow time to check your internet connection is strong, login to the appropriate software or app and test your camera.
2. Dress the way you would in person: Catching up with a client you know well via a video call? If you are both on the same page, a casual approach is great. But if you’re getting involved in online networking with a new bunch of people, treat it the way you would if you were meeting them face to face. Dressing in your go-to networking outfit will make you feel more professional, and give you a confidence boost.
3. Create a professional space: Have you ever filmed a video for your business? A lot of the same rules apply for a live video call. For optimum lighting, try to make sure you are facing a window – or, at the very least, not sitting with your back directly to a window!
Tidy up your space, so there isn’t distracting clutter in the background. Working from home can make this more difficult if you don’t have a dedicated space, but just do your best. In the current circumstances, people will make allowances – everyone is just doing what they can!
DURING: Be considerate and proactive
Video calls can be tricky when a number of people are involved. Attending an online networking event call is a great opportunity to discuss your business, but be sure not to take over! Being considerate and going in with a plan makes all the difference.
1. Put your camera on: I know it can be daunting, being on camera – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea! However, the chances of you being noticed in a large group are much higher when you’re on camera. Just remember, as unnatural as it may feel to start with, people respond to people. They’ll want to see your face and engage, the way they would in person. Hiding behind the audio alone might mean you get a bit lost behind the screen!
2. Consider where you are looking: Not used to talking on video? It can be daunting getting started! Follow this simple rule of thumb: when you’re talking, look directly at the camera. That way, you’ll be looking at the other person or people. Then, when listening to someone else speak, look at your screen instead. It sounds obvious, but knowing where to look is a simple way to alleviate some of the video call anxiety!
3. Mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking: Especially if there are several participants in an online networking video call, a little background noise can very quickly become a big distraction. To limit this, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. This will allow the person who is speaking to be heard more clearly.
4. Don’t attempt to juggle tasks: When you’re sitting at your desk, it can be tempting to give in to the urge to multitask. The ping of an email notification on your phone can be enough to grab your attention – don’t give in! If you wouldn’t check your phone or respond to an email standing in front of someone, don’t do it while video networking.
It might feel subtle when the other person can’t see your screen, but the shift in focus will be obvious! Be considerate of the time the other participants are giving up to be there.
5. Be proactive and use the chat option: While in-person networking events can sometimes last for hours when it comes to a video call, most participants are keen to keep things concise! Go in with a plan and stick to it. Who do you ideally want to chat directly to, and what are your main objectives?
Having some direction is a good way to ensure the conversation is flowing. Also, be proactive in including everyone who is participating – some people might be shyer than others when it comes to online networking, so gently reach out to anyone who is remaining quieter!
It’s also beneficial to make use of the chat feature most video call software includes. This allows you to reach out and ask specific questions to or instigate a post-call catch up with individuals.
6. Accept technical glitches: Try as you might to be prepared, technical glitches are par for the course when it comes to online networking. You can test the app or software, check your internet connection, and the screen might still freeze, or the sound cut out. Don’t panic!
Especially during the current crisis, we can all afford to be a little more patient and understanding. The worst thing you can do is let it freak you out and ruin the chat for you.
Calmly try to regain your connection, and know that no-one will judge you for your wifi having a moment.
AFTER: Be professional
It sounds incredibly simple, doesn’t it? The bottom line, whether you’re networking online or in person, is to be professional. Following up with people and making notes to improve on are excellent goals following an online networking event.
1. Make connections: Again, think about how you would behave after networking in person and apply this to a video call. One of the most obvious moves here is to connect with the people you’ve chatted to on LinkedIn. Always remember, it isn’t just about who is in the (virtual) room, but who is in their network too!
2. Politely follow up: Much like with in-person networking, be sure to promptly follow up with the people you sense there is a potential for collaboration with. A friendly email or polite direct message thanking them for the chat encourages the conversation to continue.
3. Take note and plan for next time: Just finished with an online networking call? Now is a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. If you were the host, it might be worth asking the participants for some feedback via a short survey. The responses you get can help you shape the next event.
Or, if you were a participant, it’s a good chance to work out what you want to do next time! That could be to plan your pitch more concisely, speak up more or have a more defined goal noted down before starting.
It’s an uncertain time right now, but the wonders of technology give us an opportunity to keep reaching out. With countless video call options out there, we are lucky to be able to virtually meet with people from across the globe.
I hope these top tips for online networking video calls have been useful – good luck with your next call. Stay positive and stay safe everyone!
To read more about how to network, make new connections and use video to grow your business, have a look at these posts!
7 Lessons I’ve Learned in Business Networking
The Best Online Marketing Channels for Small Businesses
4 Ways to Grow Your Small Business With Video
Content Marketing Ideas – A Brainstorming Tool for Small Businesses