Networking Online – Do the usual rules apply?
Networking or meeting online is probably here to stay, so how does it differ to face to face?
Set the scene. You are getting ready for going to your networking event and there’s a checklist you follow
Plenty of business cards – check
Your elevator pitch is written and practiced – check
What you are going to wear – check.
Leave in plenty of time to be there early for the meeting – check
Move this online and does it change?
While we no longer need to have our business cards on hand – but except for that, everything else remains the same – with a few additions.
First impressions count
It’s still true that first impressions count – in fact, even more so.
When you meet someone face to face, you’ve between 3 – 7 seconds to make that first impression count. Move this online and it’s less than a second.
Zoom may not be our first choice of how we network but it’s all we’ve got and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can make your online networking work for you.
Arrive at the meeting early so you can start your networking before the ‘proper’ meeting starts.
It gives you chance to chat with other people and get a feel of how the event is going to be. It’s also your opportunity to say hello and get some conversations going before the meeting officially starts. Turn up late, or even on time and you miss this opportunity completely.
Dress for the Occasion
You also still need to dress for the occasion. Just because you’re now sitting in your lounge, garden room shed, kitchen, dining room or other location in your home doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dress the part. Whatever you’d usually wear for meeting face to face should be the same for when you’re meeting online. You’re still in business and your customers and colleagues still have those same expectations of you.
What Others Think
I did a LinkedIn poll on this topic and it came in pretty close to 50/50 on whether you should dress the same for an online meeting as you would for a face-to-face meeting.
However, what was really interesting were the comments. The majority of people who commented were of the opinion that looking smart and presentable still matters.
“If people don’t bother to make any effort to dress for a meeting, why would I want to do business with these people. Video doesn’t negate the rules of professional engagement.” Lynne Wood – Director of Direct Line Communications
“I’m sort of in the middle of the 2 options. I believe you have to keep reasonably smart to maintain your reputation, regardless of whether the meeting is actual or virtual, it’s surprising how far word travels. Dave Ledward, Co-founder of North Wales Social
“Yep I’m with Dave, if you want to make the right impression you make an effort. Rob Wilkinson, Founder of Wavelength Digital
“I’ve opted for branded work wear and if I’m honest I still put after shave on too. 😊 Paul Lyons, Managing Director of Designweb
So, it appears that appearance still counts!
Extra Considerations for Online
What you wear. We’ve established dressing appropriately is key – but consider taking into account that wearing a busy pattern or checked material will not look great on camera -even if it is your favourite outfit. Ideally wear a solid colour and try to avoid all black or all white as you’ll either look like a blob or a bit washed out.
The ideal position is with the light in front of you, as in facing a window. This may not be possible so you could think about investing in some lighting – it’s not as expensive as you would think – and remember, Zoom will be here for a while yet, so you will get your money’s worth.
You may be limited due to space but try to go for a plain background if possible. Or, you could even use a pull up banner behind you. Zoom backgrounds are great too, but again, try for something plain that doesn’t distract the viewer.
Don’t look down into the camera – the main reason being is that it’s very unflattering – after all, no one likes looking up people’s nostrils! If you can, have your camera so you’re looking slightly up at it but so you’re still able to look at people in the eye. You can always prop it up with books or files to get it to the right height.
To round off, you should be preparing for your online meeting just much as you would prepare for a face to face meeting, with some added extras thrown in.