Beaming guide to virtual business networking meetings
Business networking is a vital part for many business operations. Whether it be for brand building, forming relationships and reaching new contacts or sharing advice and experiences, it’s an activity that many businesses gain advantage from.
But what happens when you can’t do this face to face anymore? Many networking groups haven’t skipped a beat and moved online to keep the show on the road. So apart from providing your own coffee everything’s the same, right? Well, not always. Here’s what we’ve learnt from our steps in to the world of online business networking meetings.
Before the event
#1. Find new groups. Be more open minded and sign-up to groups that may have previously dismissed when having to attend in person. You can broaden your geographical reach and with time saved from not having to travel you can fit more groups in to your week. Join as a guest and find which groups suit you.
#2. Check out other attendees. Just the same as with traditional networking, have a look at attendee lists before you log-on and see who you will be talking to and if there is anyone you definitely want to connect with.
#3. Have a plan. What questions do you want to ask? What message do you want to share about your business? This is a unique opportunity to talk directly to many more people, so being clear with your messaging and knowing your goals is very important.
#4. Check your internet. Arguably the most crucial tool in attending online events in your internet connection. Video calls are only as effective as your internet connectivity, so make sure that you can be clearly seen and heard with reliable broadband. If you are working from your normal home connection you may need to pre- warn other household members they might not be able to stream TV or play games. Or otherwise invest in a dedicated business connection, read our guide to getting business broadband at home.
During the event
#5. Turn up…..and on time. Might seem an obvious point, turning up to a networking meeting. In person your attendance or absence is pretty obvious. Just because it’s an online meeting doesn’t mean that others won’t take note if you’re a no show. People will be of course understanding if child care or other commitments come up, so if you can’t make it just let the organisers know.
Likewise, you need to join the meeting promptly. There’s no longer the excuse of being stuck on the M25 or train delays. Leave plenty of time to turn the laptop on, grab a fresh cup of coffee and be ready for the start.
#6. Remember they can see you too. Video conference technology is becoming ubiquitous, which is great because so much of our communication is body language. Which means what you do in front of the webcam is being noticed and subconsciously processed. Yawn, rub your eyes, gaze out of the window, it’ll be interpreted as disinterest. Nod, smile, interject where appropriate, will all show enthusiasm and engagement. If you wouldn’t do it face to face, don’t do it on camera.
#7. Sit still at the back! Ever been on a video conference call where everyone is sitting in front of their camera in a nice an settled way, apart from one person? That’s right, someone’s joined on their mobile and as they’re not due to talk yet they’ve decided to make a cup of tea, and while they’re at it, some toast. The most visual movement on the call is the sideways tour of Pete’s kitchen (nice big fridge, really, butter rather than margarine? Tsk, tsk). It’s very distracting and you wouldn’t do this at a normal networking meeting so…..
#8. Participate in break out groups. Many events split in to smaller groups so your can talk in more detail. Let the organiser know if there’s anyone specific you would like to speak and hopefully you can join a break out group together. Alternatively see if you can catch up after the event…
After the event
#9. Follow up. Making sure to reach out to new contacts outside of the networking event will give you a great chance to find out more about them and their business but also for you to let them know what makes your offering different. Also try and connect on LinkedIn, giving you another opportunity to engage ans share content but this also increases your extended network and access to more prospects.
#10. Feedback and invite others to join events. Let the organiser know any constructive feedback and think about any of your own contacts to join to help build the network.
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