Networking is an effective means of business development. But many folks are intimidated by the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and initiating conversations.
In my early days of networking, I dreaded the thought of going to a networking event. Often I would go to an event, stand in the corner for an hour or two, and then go home defeated. I was never going to be the kind of person to work a room naturally.
I needed a plan. I figured out the business organization I wanted to become involved in and joined the Board. This did two things for me – at the very least, when I walked into their networking events, I would know my fellow board members – it was no longer a room of strangers. Secondly, it created visibility, and people approached me and not me having to make the first move.
As a board member, I wanted to make life easier for the non-networkers like myself. It became a policy that board members would seek out the corner dwellers, break the ice, and, when possible, introduce the newcomer to other members.
That approach worked for me; it may not be possible for you. Another idea is to agree to attend with a friend or colleague. That way, you don’t have to walk in alone. Ultimately, it is about breaking the ice.
Recently, in-person events have moved online. This, in itself, has presented some interesting challenges. While it doesn’t replace face-to-face, it is still an opportunity to meet new people. As a BNI Member, I have taken the time to visit groups that geographically weren’t possible in-person. And while I haven’t left the house or even put on pants (but I digress), I have visited chapters in Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, and of course, San Francisco. I wouldn’t say it’s my preferred way to network, but Zoom beats driving across town.
5 Tips to Make Online Zoom Networking Better –
- Turn on your own view – I can’t tell you how many calls I have had staring up someone’s more, or some other strange camera angle. Seriously, take a look at your video. Make sure you look presentable and professional. If you are not sure, Zoom with a friend and ask for feedback.
- Clean up the clutter – I chatted on Skype with a client that sat in front of a bookcase that was dangerously overloaded. For years, I was obsessed with the bookcase and its physics-defying feats. Please make sure any distractions in the background are removed so we focus on you and your message.
- Use the Mute Function – Work from Home has many challenges; it is not the least an uninvited guest during a call. If you’re not actively speaking, get in the habit of switching on mute. That way, when the dog barks or one of your kids decides to crash the party., the rest of the participants, particularly the speaker, are not interrupted.
- Turn on the beauty filter – Not feeling pretty at your 7 am conference call? Zoom’s Touch Up My Appearance feature may be for you. The filter aims to smooth over your appearance, making you look dewy and well-rested. Remember, there’s a fine line between enhanced and blurry. Use sparingly. To turn it on, click the up arrow next to Start Video. Click Video Settings, and under My Video, check the box for Touch Up My Appearance.
- Record the meeting to your computer – I have been amazed watching these videos later. As a moderator, I am often busy with chat and some behind the scenes goings-on. I have found this useful. This is also great to send to clients so that they can have a copy of the session. Both free and paid Zoom subscribers can record their meeting to their laptop or computer using the desktop app (you can’t record on mobile at the moment unless you have a paid account). Those recorded files can then be uploaded to a file storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or a video streaming service such as YouTube or Vimeo. To enable local recording, go to Settings > Recording, and toggle it on. When you’re hosting a Zoom meeting, click the Record icon on the bottom toolbar.
Networking is daunting for many. Especially if you are not the selling ice to an Eskimo type. But like anything else, it is a skill that can develop with a little practice. And if you see someone alone in the corner, break the ice – you’ll be doing them a favor.