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Modern technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? How would we have coped this year without the magic of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and other online video conference software?

Everything from team check-ins to networking hours have now migrated into cyberspace and remote meetings are pretty much the norm. There’s even an event dedicated to the concept – on 29 October, we’ll mark World Online Networking Day in honour of the great virtual meet-up.

In that case, I hear you ask yourself – why am I still so bad at online networking?

If you haven’t yet mastered the art of appearing confident and interesting in front of the webcam, you’re in good company. In the spirit of solidarity, here are some top tips we’ve learned this year about how to Zoom with zeal.

  1. How can I look better on video calls?

It’s true that webcams aren’t always flattering. Pay attention to the lighting in your workspace and the angle of your camera. Positioning the webcam slightly above you rather than below will also be helpful if you haven’t quite shifted that lockdown double chin…

  1. How can I make my Zoom background look better?

We aren’t all blessed with a smart home office or a bookshelf full of Will Self novels to act as a video call backdrop. Why not embrace the technology and create your own digital background, using your logo or an appropriate image?

  1. How do I introduce myself without rambling?

Imagine you’re at a dinner party. Now imagine you’re sitting next to a stranger who appears to have a concentration span of about 10 seconds. Work out how you would explain your job to them before their attention wanders and you’ve nailed it.

  1. How can I concentrate on the conversation during online networking?

Although video calls should be fairly easy, they can actually be a bit of a sensory overload. You can cut down on this by, for example, selecting Gallery Setting at the start of a Zoom call. This will prevent a new view flashing up whenever a different person speaks. Setting your preferences ahead of time and learning keyboard shortcuts will avoid the need to search for settings during the call, which could make you appear distracted.

  1. How can I overcome a noisy background?

Mute is always your friend, even if you don’t have a mewling cat in the room or a DIY enthusiast next door. Taking a few seconds to ensure your microphone is muted at the start of the call and only unmuting when you need to speak will be much appreciated by your fellow networkers.

  1. How can I speak to the people who interest me?

When networking in person, we have the option to form breakaway groups of two or more people and chat within the larger group setting. But virtual networking necessarily means addressing ‘the whole room’. Trying to talk specifically to just a few people is not possible without dominating the conversation. Introduce yourself to everyone as a group and then, if there is a messenger function on your platform, drop a line to people who interest you to request a post-networking call later on. By viewing online networking as an introduction to potential new contacts, rather than somewhere to immediately forge personal connections, you’ll be better able to relax and explore its full potential.

Any other tips we’ve missed for knocking online networking out of the park? We’d love to hear about what works – and what doesn’t – for you.

Would you like to be more confident and assertive when networking?

Our Assertive Communication Skills course is ideal for anyone who wants to be more confident and assertive in their day-to-day communication. While particularly useful for managers and other individuals who need to project confidence, the skills learned in this course can be applied in almost any role.

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Mark Fryer

28th October 2020

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