Last week, I attended my first in-person conference in more than two years.
As I entered the conference hotel lobby, I saw many friends I had met at pre-pandemic in-person conferences, some dating back more than a decade. I also ran into many friends I’d made entirely on ZOOM in the last three years.
I felt just as close to my pre-pandemic friends and colleagues as I did to those I’d met more recently on ZOOM. It was wonderful to see EVERYONE! It’s funny how my more recent ZOOM friends appeared taller (or shorter) than I expected!
Can You Really Network on ZOOM?
People frequently say that it’s difficult to network or build relationships on ZOOM, but I’ve found it to be much easier! In the last three pandemic years (2020-2022), I built stronger relationships than ever before.
Did it require a little more effort? Yes!
In some ways, that was the beauty of it.
On ZOOM, I built relationships with colleagues from all over the world, people I would never have met in person. I can meet people from anywhere, at any time, thanks to virtual networking. We can meet as often and for as long as we want (15 min., 30 min., 60 min., 2 hours, etc.).
To meet in person, at least one of us would have to travel, possibly a long distance. If we met at a conference or other business event, we probably would have had other competing activities or responsibilities.
How frequently do you attend a conference and sit down with a colleague in the hopes of having a substantial conversation, only to discover that other conference attendees keep stopping by to say hello and the hoped-for conversation never takes place? After a few hours at the conference, I realized that this kept happening.
On ZOOM, we can simply schedule 30-minute catch-up meetings every few weeks. No one else needs to attend. No commute is involved, and nobody else is vying for our attention. I even occasionally plan a ZOOM happy hour with colleagues or a small group coffee time to discuss both work and non-work topics.
I didn’t have those kinds of online conversations three years ago. Yet, now that I do most of my networking online, I find that I can build and maintain much stronger relationships with the people I meet.
Was The Conference Valuable?
Sure! Catching up in real life is always valuable. Some of our in-person conversations have resulted in new ideas and opportunities for project collaboration, as well as new introductions to others. And sometimes, simply seeing a complete human being was fun!
While some of the conference sessions were also valuable, I realized that I attend in-person conferences for more than just the sessions. I attend for networking that happens before, between, and after the educational sessions.
For example, I noticed that if there was a segment in an in-person conference that I wasn’t particularly interested in, I would simply go hang out in the lobby or grab a coffee with someone and do some networking.
However, when I attend a conference online, if I’m not interested in the sessions, I typically distract myself by checking my email or simply signing off, never to return.
Will I Attend More In-Person Conferences?
I’m sure I will.
I’m just saying that networking on ZOOM has been at least as valuable for me as a way to build my networks and strengthen relationships as in-person networking.
And, while I still meet with colleagues in person on occasion, I am much more intentional about staying in touch with and maintaining my relationships via ZOOM!
So, if you haven’t heard from me in a while, please get in touch and let me know when you’d like to catch up via ZOOM!
Or don’t be surprised if an email from me shows up in your inbox asking if you’d like to have a call.
I probably just want to see how you’re doing and continue building our relationship!
I hope this inspires you to reach out to your own networks! Or reach out to me! Here’s a calendar link to make it easy!