Making the most of online Networking and Business Meetings
Looks like online meetings are here to stay. Certainly they’ve helped us transition from a largely regional practice to one that is helping clients all over the country. But there’s a definite skill in being ‘as good online as in person’. In fact some would argue that you can make online meetings work even better for you than the old expectations of face to face meetings. Especially if they are of the networking variety.
Our resident marketing and mentoring expert, Helen Froggett-Thomson, has created some tips on this very topic and has written them up for us to share. So we wanted to offer them to our clients in case there’s something in here to raise your game, it’s certainly a great ‘refresh’ and it might help you win new clients and get more business. So here goes…
BEFORE THE EVENT
- Update your social media profiles with the image and biog you are comfortable with and which accurately reflects your current needs or goals.
- Be clear about why you are attending and what you want to gain from attending – which of your current personal aims or objectives is it meeting?
- Read about the event and identify who will be there – either as speakers, session leaders or participants.
- Research them. Find them on social media – google them and look for LinkedIn, twitter and instagram accounts in particular. Like or follow them. Check out their background and what they look like.
- Be helpful and be noticed before the event. Help them spread the news about the event on your social media and make it clear you are attending. The more people that you tag the more you will increase your reach.
- By the time the event comes along your name will sound familiar and they will feel more comfortable with you. So when you introduce yourself there will be a ‘halo’ effect immediately. They are more likely to remember you.
- Try to make personal contact with key speakers or attendees if possible ahead of the session. Ask if they will be taking any screen shots (or if it’s ok for you to do so) to share news about the event.
- Try to contact the organiser, follow the social media accounts and ask if there is an attendee list. If not, make a note using pen and paper or a screen shot to help you remember who was who.
DURING THE EVENT
- Consider how best to be appropriately dressed for the environment you’ll be in. Be comfortable with what you are wearing and how you look. Consider the background showing behind you on the meeting if it’s in person such as teams or zoom. Move around the house or office a bit to get the best position if that’s possible. Blur the background if it’s a bit cluttered or perhaps pick a virtual backdrop from the drop down menus. Consider adding your own background with your logo or brand visible.
- Attempt to log in at least ten mins before the start. Make sure you know where your camera and mute buttons are. And the chat box.
- When you are talking remember to look at the camera on your devise, not at your image on screen. It will look like you’re looking right at them. Although ironically, nothing could be further from the truth! It does really help you connect with people and will help you stand out. Takes some practice though!
- Be aware that if you are asked to be muted except when talking yourself, you will need to exaggerate your reactions slightly so they are visible. This will include nodding, smiling, waving (goodbye usually!) and perhaps clapping. If you can familiarise yourself with where the icons for putting your hand up to request to speak, or clapping, are placed on the screen that will also help.
- When they let you in to the meeting, if possible, make an attempt to say hello to a couple of people and look attentive when others are talking. This is not the time to catch up on emails or respond to loads of messages, (tempting though it may be!)
- Appearing in a networking meeting as your initials is a really easy way to be noticed, for all the wrong reasons! It’s also pointless. You’d be better off not going than having the negative effect of being faceless. This is specifically in relation to networking meetings. Some routine office meetings and webinars are perfectly ok (at least, that has become more acceptable, even if it is still a bit disarming for anyone speaking to a sea of initials). If you want to make new contacts and give a good impression, always have your camera on, and be attentive. Don’t multi task. Passive listening makes people feel insecure about themselves and unkindly about the person who made them feel that way.
- Know what you’re going to say in your intro. This is very important. It need not be too formal, you can smile and say how pleased you are to be there and hello to everyone. Beyond that, it’s good to state your name clearly, what you do, what that actually means (if it needs clarifying), something that distinguishes you from everyone else there ‘my passion is, I am fascinated by, I believe that, my mission is to…and then say why you are there and what you hope to gain from the meeting. Say that you’d love to make contact with people who might benefit from any introductions you could make for them or help them in any way…and say how they could contact you (or that you’d be happy to receive any messages in the chat box).
- Listen to everyone else’s introductions and make brief notes. Refer to other people in your own intro or when asking questions, shown links – Sarah who I hear is from my neck of the wood, said this… I agree with John on this point…I’d like to add to Asif’s comment about…
- Personally message with, really great to hear about what you do, or I agree with that point completely, anything really, to the people who you identify as interesting or relevant or with whom you might have some common ground. (depending on your objectives for attending of course). You can usually choose to message a specific person in a chat box, even if the default is ‘group chat’. Usually just takes a little toggle on an option box in the ‘to’ section.
- Engage in the group chat too. Little supportive comments. It can be really brief, even a thumbs up in the general chat after they’ve made a point you agree with (with a brief note of context in case it’s not seen real time)
- Smile where you can. Look friendly. Act as if you were in a face to face meeting in that regard. It will be noticed. Online meetings can be devoid of any personality with people more like wax works than living sentient beings. It’s actually easier to stand out in this environment than in a face to face networking event.
- Avoid hogging the ‘any questions’ section or interrupting people, but do be prepared to ask a question as people will notice you more. Needn’t be a contentious topic. Just something relevant or asking for clarification. Or even just thanking the last speaker (or whatever). It need not be a groundbreaking comment, just shows you’re invested and engaged. This will endear you to the host.
- Ask in the group chat if there’s a list of people’s social media handles, or whether people would be prepared to share theirs – they will, that’s what they are all there for too. Either screen shot the chat thread or make a quick note. But a few screen grabs might be quicker and easier at the time.
- Don’t be shy. You can be the glue that makes this whole thing work. Your energy and enthusiasm will go along way and help people feel more relaxed.
- Take a screen shot if you’ve got permission. Or ask for it during the meeting – you could ask if there will be any participant photos to share or if it’s ok for you to take one? I’ve never had a request denied. This can be shared after the event, with any relevant tags to the event host and people who you wanted to connect with.
AFTER THE MEETING
- After the event, post on whatever social media you use that you attended and perhaps share some tips or key takeaways. And tag the relevant people.
- As a side note, if you are attending a webinar which does not require you to be visible, it is a great idea to live tweet comments or tips as that will really make the organiser or speaker notice you. And will do wonders for any contact you have post event.
- Consciously think of ways you can help the other people in the meeting. Think of whom they might benefit from knowing within your existing network. Message them along these lines, perhaps asking if meeting a person who does so and so would be of any interest etc. Even if nothing comes of it, your generosity and openness, willingness to reach out and your selfless non ‘salesy’ approach will work in your favour.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out using to the social media channel’s Direct Message function after the event. If they don’t respond in a couple of hours, (because some people get overwhelmed by their direct messages and simply don’t read them) consider an email thanking them.
- You can also make this first contact in public message. Find a post about the event and comment under, along with ‘would be great to make contact to discuss this further, what’s the best way of keeping in touch please’. I’ve never had this ignored.
- If you really want to go for gold, follow everyone who was on the meeting and tag them in posts about the event. They will notice. And while they themselves might not be potentially useful contacts for you, they may know someone who needs to collaborate with someone like you. You just never know who knows who. Time and time again I find this. Effort put into authentic honest networking is never wasted. It’s as if the powers that be are watching sometimes. The area in which you expected a contact to be made can sometimes evade but you’ll probably be surprised at the unexpected links that will materialise if you put yourself out there with intent.
- And the final point is, FOLLOW UP! All this effort could be wasted if you do not do this vital step. Not only does it cement and reinforce the presence you exhibited before and during the meeting or session but it demonstrates only good things about you – what do you think when someone follows up nicely? And by nicely I mean, friendly not demanding or overly salesy. Surely the qualities that this reveals – efficiency, organisation, being thorough, reliable, persistent (in a good way) and what’s more, the light personal compliment it conveys within the action, that you are important enough for that person to have reached out – would make you more likely to trust them in the context in which you were meeting and more likely to collaborate, refer or work together if the need presented itself? I’ve even thought of ways to collaborate if I find someone I can connect with and trust.
How did you do? Do you do all these? Are there other tips you have come across? Some that you’ve forgotten about?
Would be great to hear from you and we could add your ideas against your name?
If you’ve found this of any benefit, perhaps your existing network (no matter how small) might also find them interesting. How about sharing the link to this post on your socials or linkedIn?
You can find Helen at @helenthomsonuk or Helen@thomsontraining.com
And The Accountancy Practice at @accountsworld on twitter and @theaccountancypractice_ on instagram.
And if you’re interested in talking to an accountant or have some questions that might help you decide whether we’re the right accountants for you, please email David@theaccountancypractice.com or ring 01763 257882.