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We’ve all gotten a crash course in using virtual tech to do business, courtesy of the pandemic. While seeing people over Zoom doesn’t have the same impact and feel as in-person events (and we’re crossing our fingers we can all safely return to those soon!), there are some powerful benefits to connections in the virtual world. And there are creative ways to make very real impressions through your screen!

A New Ice-Breaker

Our shared experience with the realities of Covid-19 means it can be easier to open up a cold conversation with a new contact. By now, many of us have chatted on Zoom calls about how we’re all coping with the long months of pandemic life.

And while it’s not ideal, the little “oops” moments that come with doing work completely from home are not always a bad thing. One of our clients was conducting Zoom interviews recently and during one intense interview, the candidate’s cat jumped right up into the camera. “We both immediately laughed, and although it meant the candidate lost her train of thought it gave us an opportunity to connect as two human beings,” said the client. The happy ending: the candidate was hired.

Strive for professional behavior and tones at all times, but it turns out that showing your human side can work in your favor in these very stressful times. After all, we are all going through this together and it can be comforting to realize you’re not the only one dealing with the ever-changing social and business parameters of 2020. Go ahead and own it.

Network and Connect without Geographic Barriers

As much as we all prefer in-person events, right now at least we are all saving some money in our travel budgets. (Gotta remember those silver linings when we’re feeling down about missing our favorite annual conference or team retreat, right?)

Fortunately, there are options to still give your networking and team events extra-special attention. One idea is to deliver a cocktail-prep kit to each attendee and do a live mixology session over Zoom, or send a selection of regional craft beers or a bottle of wine to attendees so they still get a taste of the high spirits of an open-bar networking event.

A virtual event doesn’t need to involve cocktails… sometimes you can make a strong impression with creativity and a sense of fun. Check out providers like Retreatify and Corporate Event Interactive for some nifty ideas. You can try online events like creativity-boosting activities, virtual escape rooms, meditation and productivity workshops, and more.

A couple other ideas we’ve had here at AJA Marketing: send canvases, paints and brushes to each person’s home and invite an artist to lead a guided painting session. Or host a “virtual open mic” if you’ve got particularly outgoing attendees. The point is to have fun, be bold and create an event that works for your specific target audience.

Tips for a Great Video Presence

Of course, all of these virtual events require a few basic housekeeping best practices to maximize positive impressions. Here are some things to pay attention to:

  • Find your light: If you’ve ever been on a Zoom call with someone in a dark room, it can be a little tough to feel connected. Get out of the shadows and place your virtual camera in an optimal spot so your whole face is clearly visible. For daytime events, it can be helpful to face a window so natural light gives you a healthy glow. You can also consider investing in a “selfie light” designed for video calls. They can be purchased for as little as $20 on Amazon.
  • Test, 1, 2, 3: Be sure to do a test run before you join a meeting. Make sure your video is working, and that your mic and speaker are at peak performing levels. It’s also a good idea to sign off of your WIFI on other devices in your home to help ensure a smooth internet connection. Nothing’s worse that the dreaded “frozen screen” while your internet races to keep pace with you!
  • Consider a cool background: If your house isn’t HGTV ready (and whose is these days, honestly?), try swapping out your cluttered living room with a fun background. Zoom makes it easy to use some of the pre-loaded standard image and video backgrounds, but think about uploading a scene or image that speaks to your personality. If you want to make a professional impression, Google “Zoom background downloads” for ready-made images of designer rooms or outdoor scenery. For a fun event, find images from pop culture or your own vacation photos. It’ll spark conversations!
  • Stay professional. Even during fun events… dress appropriately, and don’t let your guard down too much if you’ve imbibed in the bubbly. Remember to look directly into your camera as much as possible so you’re making the impression of eye contact, and try to keep outside noises in your home to a minimum if you can. Afterwards, follow up with emails and nurture those connections, just as you would with an in-person event!

As we head into month-infinity of the pandemic, chances are for many of us, Zoom fatigue is starting to set in. But we say, resist that! Make Zoom and other video conferencing platforms work for you. Plug into your creativity and make lasting impressions for you and your attendees. You might be surprised how successful and memorable your events can be!