Social distancing may have put a halt to shaking hands at after work happy hours, but it hasn’t put an end to networking. The proliferation of online communication tools means business associates are just a click away. And thanks to the coronavirus (yes, I actually thanked it for something), we’re all becoming Zoomers, no matter our age. I call this time of online connecting ‘NETworking’. Check out the following tips to get the most out of your virtual connections:
- Set Goals – Identify your purpose for reaching out. Whether you’re exploring a new career, building stronger relationships with industry associates or identifying potential clients, knowing why you are connecting provides a framework for the conversation. It also helps you to set goals for follow up timing and activity.
- Ask Questions – Your reason for networking may be to achieve a personal goal, but that doesn’t mean that the conversation is all about you. Demonstrating genuine interest in others by asking about their roles / responsibilities is a natural ice breaker and helps them to feel more comfortable. In short, be a host; just as you would if entertaining friends in your home.
- Watch the Clock – Working from home may give you license to adopt a more casual approach to work but be mindful about setting time parameters for virtual meetings and conference calls. Respecting other’s time is fundamental business etiquette and should be observed whether meeting virtually or face-to-face . “I wish the meeting could have gone longer” said no one, ever.
- Do Your Homework – When reaching out to someone you aren’t familiar with, do some research to familiarize yourself with their role and company. Knowing your audience leads to more productive networking, allowing you to prepare an agenda in advance to achieve your goals while engaging others with personalized discussion based on your research.
- Remember Your Internal Teams – Networking with internal team members is just as important as building relationships with external affiliates. Employees can feel disconnected during this time of ‘business as anything BUT usual’ and will look to leadership to help them navigate the disruption. Use Zoom, Go-to-Meeting or other trusted virtual meeting platforms to visually connect with your employees, as a group and individually. “It’s good to see you” may never mean more.