How to lose business

and alienate people

when networking online

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Mark Coster

Founder of Pixooma

Love it or hate it, online networking is here to stay. But as we pass into year two of online networking, it’s good to reflect on good and bad experiences to ensure that we continue to get the best from it.

I don’t know about you, but overall, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s given me an opportunity to network with people that previously I may not have met. And with no geographical borders to negotiate, or the inconvenience of travelling time, there’s more incentive to catch up virtually with different groups of people all from the comfort of your own home.

When on camera you should refrain from displaying negative body language (facial leakage is the phrase)….

Personal responsibility

But with greater choice, comes greater responsibility. I find it more important than ever to be mindful of basic networking etiquette. And just because you are not face-to-face with fellow business owners, there is no excuse to behave badly, rudely, or selfishly.

We’ve all been subjected to someone talking at us and not giving us an opportunity to respond. And there have been those moments where people talk over others because of either an internet delay, or they felt the need to fill the silence. But I was chatting to a colleague recently who had been networking online in a small group when someone had invited themselves into the group, interrupted their conversation, talked at them, sold his services then disappeared.

Etiquette for online networking

Of course, this is clearly not acceptable behaviour. But it got me thinking. Are there some basic rules of online networking that we should be adhering to, so we can continue to ensure the best experience for everyone?

Here are some of my thoughts:

Listen more than you talk. If you are having a 121, the timings for each of you to talk should be split 50/50.

Remember the mute button is there for a reason. If there is a presentation or a speaker, then use it. Alternatively, if people are doing their 60 second intro, being on mute is just respectful.

Following on from this, please refrain from tutting, sighing, saying something derogatory, or interrupting others whenever possible.

If you need to leave the room for some reason – to make refreshments or visit the toilet - it’s better to turn your camera off than leave others to see an empty chair. But be mindful of when you do this; during a presentation is not polite on any level.

And of course, it goes without saying that if you are on camera, you should refrain from displaying negative body language (facial leakage is the phrase), undertaking conversations with others in your household, or having a background where there are obvious disruptions.

You should also avoid taking a phone call or answering the doorbell when your camera and mike are on. I always put my phone on mute when I am networking online as well as turning off email alerts.

I think all in all it pays to act as though you were in the room. You wouldn’t do any of these things in a ‘physical’ meeting, and if you did need to pop out when someone was talking, you’d (hopefully) politely make your excuses beforehand.

To me, being online is no different to being in a meeting room. Etiquette still matters, perhaps even more so when the focus on the screen is on your face and everyone can see you, your reactions and of course any distractions.

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