There are a wide assortment of online meeting and collaboration tools that have helped to keep us connected during the pandemic. They can be helpful tools but without setting upfront ground rules, they can be confusing or not work as well as intended. I’ve been able to connect and re-connect with professional colleagues and friends and family and learned what has worked well and when it’s best not to use.
- Establish the kind of connection. Find out if it’s a camera on type of event or if it’s acceptable to lurk and listen. If it’s a one on one meeting, determine if it’s voice only or if there will be a need or desire for a video connection. Not all connections need video and your colleagues may thank you to have a reprieve from screens. If there is video, check your home Internet connection prior and negotiate with your household if traffic can be a problem during busy times or schedule during a lighter use period if you can.
- Learn the basics of different tools. Like many people, I have attended and hosted my fair share of Zoom meetings, but I currently have seven different meeting apps on my tablet. Each provides similar features and each have their strengths. It’s important to establish which platform to use prior to setting the meeting, download the app and then get familiar with the basic functions so you can navigate during the meeting.
- Invest in a tool. If you are networking, subscribe to a tool and learn it inside and out. Offer to set up an online meeting and host the call. Many tools offer free versions or trial versions, but with constraints, such as time limits or only certain features can be used. The individual is sharing time and insight with you. Put your best foot forward and make the network connection as painless as possible.
- Set up your environment. Find a wall that works well as a backdrop. Make sure the background is tidy and doesn’t become a distraction. Short on space? Get a room divider screen that will hide the fact that you are in your kids play room. Virtual backgrounds can be fun or offer branding opportunities. Test ahead of time and make sure it works in your setting and consider what it may look like on a tablet or phone. Make sure your lighting works as well. There are tools like ring lights but also play with natural light if you are near a window.
- Prepare. If you are meeting with someone you know well, a free-form conversation can work. Take a look at their LinkedIn profile and review and leave an endorsement if you are so inclined. If it’s someone new or haven’t spoken to in a long time, sketch out an agenda and questions to ask and also think about how you can potentially help the person you are connecting with. Can you connect them to someone in your network? Can you support a non-profit that’s near and dear to their heart?
- Follow up. After you connect or attend a webinar, follow up with that individual or presenter. Even a simple thank you note without an ask can be a nice gesture and something the reader will appreciate.
This space is everchanging and continues to evolve. Keeping these tips in mind will help you make meaningful connections in the digital space. What tricks have you learned?