BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
I was reading a networking article last year about a woman who held an event where attendees wore a colored band to indicate their level of comfort in meeting people. If I’m remembering correctly, green meant, “All is well! Hugs and high fives!” while yellow meant, “Approach with caution,” and red indicated, “Please distance.” I was mortified – not only am I not a hugger with people I don’t know during “normal times” – I don’t want to start wearing a colored band at networking events to indicate my comfort level.
To be completely honest, my color would always be red.
That being said, I think we’re still a ways away from heavy traffic and in-person networking events, and even then, why lose the possibility to meet people from all over the place? If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic and the virtual communication that comes with it, it can be an exhausting pain – or it can be an opportunity!
When you do view it as an opportunity to meet new people, you need to start thinking about what it’s like to introduce yourself in this digital landscape. A few things to keep in mind:
When is the last time you’ve checked in on a Google Search…of yourself? If you’re not Googling yourself before you think about meeting new people, you should start.
Check out what’s out there on social media – I’m not saying wipe your history! I am saying you should be aware of what people can find out before and after they meet you. If you’re meeting someone in a Zoom meeting, chances are they might look you up before or after – it’s right there! Be sure your social media shows who you are at your best – not a version of yourself you aren’t loud and proud with.
Practice Makes Perfect
You should practice introducing yourself in a mirror or on a Zoom by yourself. We take up space differently in person versus digitally. Because your face takes up the entire screen, you want to make sure that you’re framed well (aim for space around your head, lit well and comfortable) as well as comfortable – I make sure to have coffee and water nearby if it’s a morning meeting, and water if we’re connecting at night.
Pro tip: when you’re practicing your introduction, hit up a free Zoom account, pop on, get ready, and hit record to see what you sound and look like.
Look at the Camera
I can’t express this enough – look at the camera, not at the screen. It’s a massive difference when you’re talking to look into your camera versus talking at your screen. Think about how it is when someone stares at your eyebrows versus looking you in the eyes – this is what I’m talking about!
If you don’t know where your camera is, find it. Again, turn on that free Zoom and locate your computer camera – as soon as you find it remember this tip: no one stares in the eyes of anyone the entire time they are talking. Look at the screen when they are talking, then into the camera as if you’re making eye contact when you’re talking.
As much as I might want to get rid of awkward small talk – I will admit that it’s critical before any kind of “pitch” – even if it’s a pitch of who you are! Don’t get right down to business even if all you want to do is jump off the Zoom and hide on the couch: think about some topics you can talk about that are not only “safe” (i.e., no politics!) but also easy to talk about. Weather, coffee, dinner plans – all great things you can tap into to ease into the conversation.
Above all – remember that you want to be the best version of yourself.