Networking Tips: The Art of the Virtual Happy Hour

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Networking can be awkward for everyone - yes, even for your Member Relations social butterflies, Cate and Scott! For that reason, we will offer basic networking tips every month to help you prepare for events, quell your anxieties, and learn to make the most of any networking opportunity.

Remember, it's all about building community and making connections that inspire deeper conversations!

In a world where the #Quarantini now reigns supreme, many of us find ourselves navigating the transition from in-person meetups at the pub to virtual gatherings over Zoom and Google Hangouts. So when you sign on for a virtual happy hour, where conversations happen via video conferencing and drinks are shared remotely rather than at the bar, how do you make the most of your time online? Here are a few tips:

Be mindful of your audio settings.

Depending on the size of the group, it could make it difficult to hear who’s talking if everyone leaves their microphone on. If you’re going a minute or two without speaking, mute your microphone. For smaller, more casual groups, it might be okay to leave your mic on – just be conscious of ambient sounds, like barking dogs and chattering kiddos, that might make it difficult for others to hear.

Make the other participants feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

When speaking, look at the camera rather than at the screen. The “eye contact” helps foster personal connection and engagement.

Can’t get a word in edgewise? Use the chat.

Many video conferencing applications include a chat function. If you’re not comfortable speaking up, type your thoughts into the chat window and get a conversation going that way.

Come prepared with a question or two in case there’s a lull in the conversation.

Keep them light – Anna Goldfarb at the New York Times offers a sampling of questions that are timely but on the lighter side, such as, “What is something you’ve been putting off doing that you now suddenly have time for?” and “What is the most hilarious thing you’ve seen that distracted you from work?” Or, if you know there will be an Ask Me Anything/Q&A opportunity, come prepared with a couple of questions related to the topic.

Dress appropriately.

Maybe you don’t need to accessorize to the hilt or apply a full face of makeup, but still do your best to look professional and presentable. Wear something appropriate on the bottom in case you need to get up from your computer unexpectedly (you might not want your professional contacts seeing your worn flannel pajama pants!).

Good lighting is your friend.

Make sure your light source is facing you rather than behind or too far above you. If possible, try to avoid fluorescent lighting.

Check your space.

If you’re calling in from home, you’re essentially inviting the other attendees into a corner of your living space. Even though this is a virtual happy hour, it’s still an opportunity to make a good impression. Double check that the space the other attendees can see is presentable and clean, but still shows a little bit of personality.

Don’t get distracted while on the call.

It’s easy to tell if someone in a video chat is scrolling a web page, reading something on a different monitor or checking their phone rather than focusing on the conversation. Concentrate on interacting with your fellow humans while you can – social media can wait.

Let everyone participate.

No matter what, don’t dominate the conversation. This also holds true for in-person networking, but it’s especially important online given the dynamics of video conferencing. Participants aren’t able to fluidly break into smaller groups to chat like they would in person, so the conversation typically only allows one or two people to speak at a time while the rest of the group listens. Say your piece, take a breath, and let others jump in.

And there you have it!

You’re prepared for your next virtual happy hour - now all you need is a Quarantini recipe to try! Epidemiologists and disease ecologists Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke have been creating Quarantini recipes for the past several years for their podcast. Check out their cocktail recipes here, or if you’re abstaining, they provide “Placeborita” recipes as well! Happy virtual networking!


Check out upcoming (virtual!) networking opportunities on our events calendar here.

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