5 Ways To Strengthen Relationships & Build Your Network In A Virtual World

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When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. and cases surged earlier this year, the world seemingly went virtual overnight. Our work life and home life became intertwined. The days of looking forward to meeting clients for lunch and social events or catching up with colleagues over coffee have been replaced with virtual video calls (mostly over Zoom or Microsoft Teams) at our makeshift home offices, all while keeping our children at bay with a snack and cartoons and trying to get the dog to stop barking at the UPS driver.

Last week, I moderated a roundtable on virtual networking at the KAYO Women’s Energy Summit, which was held virtually this year. The KAYO team did an excellent job hosting this conference for around 220 attendees. The panel format of the speaker sessions, as well as plenty of one-on-one networking opportunities, made for a lively, interactive atmosphere despite the virtual platform. I was encouraged by stories of how others are navigating the challenges of remote working and networking. 

Below are a few refreshing thoughts and creative ideas that were discussed that will hopefully help me, and you, stay engaged, focused, and productive as we strive to forge new and existing relationships amid these challenging times.

  1. You’re Not Alone — If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or unmotivated to attend another virtual meeting, believe me, you’re not alone. Since the lines are blurred between work and home lives, self-care is more important than ever before. Carve out 30-60 minutes each day to reflect and/or meditate, read a book, exercise or start a hobby to get your mind off work-related stress. Doing so can rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.
  2. Be Creative & Be Present — Coming up with creative ways to network with clients and colleagues can go a long way in building new and strengthening existing relationships. It can be in a fun way like a virtual wine tasting with old colleagues or trivia night with new hires. One participant shared that her company involved family members in networking events, hosting virtual cookie decorating classes for clients, and their kids. Whatever you choose, being creative and intentional about carving out time to engage with clients and colleagues will make a lasting impression.
  3. Ask For A Virtual Introduction — Several participants shared that meeting new people is one of the most challenging aspects of virtual networking. One way to overcome this challenge is to ask a mutual contact to make an introduction via email. Better yet, ask a virtual contact to make an introduction over a virtual coffee or happy hour.
  4. Look For New Opportunities — Going virtual provides us with more opportunities to attend events in different geographies. Be on the lookout for social media groups that align with your interests and, when you find one, invite some friends to join you at a virtual event. Also, stay positive and take advantage of the ability to blend work and home life in new ways. One person shared how much she has enjoyed being able to meet her kids at home when they get off the school bus every day, something that was nearly impossible before.
  5. Life Happens — No one is perfect. With power outages during virtual presentations to the occasional “Zoom bomb” by kids or significant others, working remotely has opened a multitude of vulnerabilities that otherwise wouldn’t be seen if we were at the office pre-COVID. I’ve enjoyed getting to see more of my coworker’s kids via Zoom. Get to know each other’s remote lives and give some space for grace. We’re all doing the best we can!

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