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Networking Virtually

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Importance of Virtual Networking

Importance of Virtual Networking

Networking, and business communication in general, changed significantly as a result of the COVID pandemic. Nearly overnight, meetings had to be conducted via telephone or web video as opposed to in person. Just about anyone who worked during this time had to learn how to communicate and network via virtual meetings. While there were certainly drawbacks to virtual meetings, it also helped to highlight some of the real benefits of virtual meetings. If you told people they could build their network over virtual meetings prior to the pandemic, they likely would have doubted you, but the reality is that is possible in today’s world, and it can be a highly effective tool for networking. Now, this does not mean that it should be your exclusive method of networking and connecting with other people, but it should be a tool you use to execute your networking strategy. Let’s discuss why. 

Minimal Time Commitment

The key benefit of virtual networking is that it generally requires a lower commitment of time. Not only do virtual meetings tend to be shorter than live meetings (15 to 30 minutes versus 45 to 90+ minutes for in-person meetings), but they also do not require any additional travel time, time to park, etc. This allows you to connect with people with a lower amount of time committed than via other networking strategies.

Minimal Workflow Interruption

Since virtual meetings are conducted from your computer wherever you work, they also tend to fit in better with your workflow. While any networking meeting may interrupt the projects you’re working on, virtual networking meetings don’t require you to get up and go anywhere. Instead, you can fit them into your everyday workflow from wherever you are working. This extra flexibility allows you to jump into the meeting and then go back to the other work you have when that meeting is done without changing environments.

Significant Geographic Reach

Another great advantage of virtual networking is that it is now widely used and acceptable by most people, whereas before the pandemic, many would have never participated in virtual networking. This means that you can now connect with people anywhere in the world much more easily. You no longer have to travel somewhere in person to hold a meeting. Many people actually prefer virtual networking now as it eliminates travel, saving time and money. This willingness of most professionals to connect virtually allows you to have a far greater reach than ever before.

Highly Efficient Intro Meetings

Due to the efficiency of virtual networking meetings, people are generally more willing to meet with a broader array of people via virtual networking than in-person networking. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you aren’t sure if they are a viable connection for you, and vice versa. Thus, both parties are generally less willing to put in a meaningful investment of time into the relationship until they have established a basic connection that is worth building on. However, with virtual meetings, you can meet with people very efficiently to assess whether they are someone with whom you want to build a deeper relationship.

This has two implications. First, if someone you don’t know reaches out to you to meet, you are more likely to meet with them since it only requires a quick virtual meeting versus years ago when you would have had to invest an hour or more to go meet with them somewhere. Second, if you are trying to set up a meeting with someone who may be more senior at a different firm, you now have a better chance of getting their time since it can be a quick and efficient video call versus asking them to travel and spend an hour with you. Due to the lower time and energy commitment of virtual networking, people are generally more willing to connect this way for introductory meetings.

More Personalized Phone Calls

While not necessarily the most personal way of connecting, phone calls were widely used to connect with network contacts in the past for reasons similar to those listed above. However, the rise of virtual meetings using video calls has added a more human element to calls. In a sense, virtual meetings have upgraded the personalization factor of these calls, improving their ability to help two people connect. In addition, while the two modes of communication are very similar, adding a visual element to phone calls makes them feel much more personal, helping to build relationships with the parties engaging this way.

Limitations of Virtual Networking

Despite all the benefits of virtual networking, there are a couple of drawbacks to be conscious of.

Aversion to Virtual Networking

Some people prefer not to do virtual networking for a variety of reasons. For some, spending the majority of the pandemic in virtual settings has made them less inclined to do meetings virtually if they can avoid it. Others may not be as comfortable with the technology aspect and may prefer to meet in person. Finally, others may value in-person interactions. Whatever the reason, some people choose not to do virtual meetings.

Limited Depth of Connection

While virtual networking meetings include audio and video elements, they are not a perfect replacement for in-person interactions. Humans are social beings by nature, and they generally value connecting in person. While building a genuine connection with someone virtually is possible, it is certainly more challenging and takes longer. If you want to build deeper connections with people, meeting in person is generally much more effective as it allows you to have the full human element and participate in something together, whether it is a meal or an event. Virtual networking can never truly replace that experience.

Final Thought

Virtual networking can be a highly effective tool for building your network primarily due to its efficiency. However, while it should be an essential tool of your networking toolkit, it is not as effective for building relationships as in-person meeting.