Posted: Wed 6th May 2020
Are you looking to grow your connections online or are you new to virtual meetings? With 11 years of business networking experience, Simon Cox, marketing manager at Poppy Design Studio, shares top tips for making the most of video meetings.
With physical meetings restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in online business meetings in the last few months. Many small businesses have had to adapt and are reaching out for new clients and contacts online. But many entrepreneurs are new to virtual networking so can be a steep learning curve.
Having formed and grown business networks over the last 11 years, I'm sharing my top tips for networking online as you look to enter new markets and meet new people in the virtual world.
Firstly, and very importantly, make sure you look the part. Remember first impressions count. Would you attend a face-to-face meeting with a potential client in your Sunday joggers? By looking the part, even online, you are ready to come across in a professional manner.
You don't need to get suited and booted if that is not your usual attire, just make some effort to dress how you would normally to see clients as that first impression can make all the difference.
You wouldn't take your son or daughter to a business meeting, but you might have young people at home during the lockdown. Children often don't understand what we do day in day out and asking them to keep the noise down during a video call can be challenging. My suggestion is to talk to them and tell them that you need quiet time whilst you are on the video.
Many people are in the same boat though so if you need to, mute your microphone and even turn your video off for a moment whilst you deal with the children if they decide they need you for an emergency! Anyone with children will understand your challenge, so do not let it put you off networking online.
If you were meeting someone face to face, would you arrive on time? Of course, you would. Why should online meetings be different? It shows whoever you are meeting that you are disorganised if you are late especially when you don't have bad weather or traffic as an excuse. If you book a meeting and you are unable to make it, be sure to let people know. It's the same in a virtual online world as it is in the face-to-face one.
So, you've booked an online meeting, but have you tested your equipment works? Try connecting with your mobile phone to make sure it all works properly and invest in a headset so you can have calls without noise in the background. Most headsets have noise cancelling features and will help to remove unwanted background sounds.
We've all prepared for meetings with key information and this should be no different if you are networking online or attending meetings with clients. Prepare important key information about your business which you can quickly share when people ask for it.
I would recommend producing a Word document with key shortcuts that you can cut and paste into a chat box or access quickly for screen sharing. You could also prepare your marketing material in a digital format and have it ready to send to people. Have links to your social media profiles ready, as people will often want to connect via LinkedIn or Twitter after an online meeting.
We are all in the same situation and it's challenging for many of us, but let's keep the positivity flowing. We are missing work colleagues, customers, friends etc, but we can still be positive. A smile and positive energy will attract new customers as people will warm to you and want to get to know you further. Also, don't forget to smile - it's contagious!
Let me tell you what we do here at Poppy Design Studio with our Zoom calls. Firstly, we have a clear branded background which shows what we offer as a business. We chat with people online in the chat facility and post content. We also encourage conversation by asking open ended questions. We save the chat using the built in feature which provides the transcript as a .TXT file. That becomes a digital record of the meeting.
It's opening us up to new markets and new people! Zoom is easy to use and install on your phone, PC or tablet.
Online networking may be new to us, but are you asking for feedback? Ask people if they can see and hear you ok and whether they think you should invest in a better microphone. It's key to get this right if you are networking online. You can also check if your background looks ok and whether it's too salesy or boring. Having feedback means you learn and the next meeting will go even better.
It's so easy to leave a web cam running and concentrate on something else whilst attending an online meeting. Yes, we are on camera and yes, we can work on something else and browse the internet, but how do the others know what you are doing when you are on the call? You could miss vital information if your ears and eyes are elsewhere. This is where you need to be professional and clever. Put yourself in the mindset of a TV presenter, always look down the camera and speak with interest asking open ended questions to attract engagement. Maybe start your questions with saying, "let me share my screen" or "did you know?" so people are engaged and intrigued.
Finally, follow up! Make connections on the virtual networking call and then follow up with another meeting. Yes, it's not the same as going for a coffee but it's still important to follow up and engage with people that are interested in your product or service.