How To Work A Room® or Zoom: A New Look at Face-To-Face Networking In a Hybrid World

It’s been a helluva 18 months since the Corona Virus created the pandemonium of a pandemic! Returning to the “new ABnormal” (a phrase I’ve used for 18 months) has contributed to our anxiety and feeling we are “rusty” in social situations. Many of us are returning to workplaces, meetings, conferences and concerts. We adapted our social interactions from the room to Zoom —and other platforms—so important during the “work remotely” pandemic times. Now we get to re-enter rooms and still meet and connect on Zoom et al.
I’ve presented several virtual programs on staying visible when we aren’t in-person and updated this article for these unique times.

HYBRID is Here To Stay

For many of us, that means that there are events and group gatherings we’ll attend in-person.Knowing #HowToWorkARoom is important. At the same time, there are other professional and personal events that will be virtual. For how long? We don’t know. We will continue to interview, attend meetings and classes and be invited to Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp events.

Entering a room—or Zoom —full of people, especially strangers, is daunting for 90% of adults according to research on shyness. Whether it’s a professional association event, a bookclub, a fundraiser or a Chamber of Commerce virtual mixer, most people are not mingling mavens whether or not they self-identify as shy. Yet our careers, businesses, professional and social lives are enhanced by our ability to meet, schmooze, interact, and make social and business connections.
It’s important to learn new ways to socialize and also “work virtual rooms” in order to build business relationships and friendships. Developing a solid, support network of colleagues is essential to success.

To make yourself feel confident and comfortable, all you need to do is spend a few minutes to prepare before you attend any Zoom room, event or meeting.

Be Sure to Prepare

1. A self-introduction. It’s NOT an elevator pitch. It’s 7-9 seconds and is a pleasantry.

2. Our attitudes. Shift from wondering who you will meet once you log on to thinking about who you will be fortunate enough to “get to” meet.

3. Conversation. Read a newspaper or content curator on or off-line and have 3-5 items of potential conversation to fall back on (the latest movie blockbuster, sports championship, community project or restaurant opening, etc). Even the weather and especially those “memorable” weather situations…are good conversation starters. As a CNN meteorologist said, “Weather is something we have in common because it happens to all of us.”

4 Cards. There are people I’ve met who’ve told me they haven’t had a card in years. But this is about making connections and building relationships. If someone asks for a card because that’s their preferred modality, have one to give. When we’re in-person, it’s smart to have business cards for those who ask for them.

A feature of Zoom is the Chat function. It allows for comments to the group as well as private messages where you can chat, share contact information and social media links.

Before You Enter the Room

Take a deep breath, glance around the room and observe. Do you see anyone you know who you should greet? Do you recognize someone you ought to meet?

To make any gathering work for you there are things to do that make the socializing easier:

Read Name Tags. On Zoom, people often have their names next to them in he “box”. We can rename ourselves and add a bit of information or title. If you’re at a live event, wear your nametag on the right-hand side. That makes it easy for other people to read your nametag and no one has to struggle with the embarrassment of forgetting a name. Nametags provide material for conversation about that person. Use the person’s name. That will also help you remember names. You can ask a question about the company, location, or indicate that you know someone at the company or are familiar with the products.

Reintroduce Yourself to People. If you haven’t seen people for a while, it helps to greet them with your first and last name as you acknowledge others. They will generally respond in kind. Then no one has to struggle with forgotten names.

Look for the Stand-Alone Person. In an in-person event, the person who is speaking to no one would welcome your conversation. Just because someone is standing alone doesn’t mean he or she is a snob or “unimportant.” People who are alone may be shyer than you. When you see someone on a Zoom event who is not participating, it’s kind to acknowledge and engage them whether you’re in a main event or break out room.

Be approachable. A smile and eye contact let people know you’re open to meeting them. That Works for both in-person and online. People have said that masks mask the inviting, connecting smile. Our eyes also smile! Let’s be sure that we use body language to also convey messaages.

Start with Small Talk. What you have in common makes for ideal icebreakers at in-person events: the venue, the food, the event, the theme, the sponsor or the host. Come prepared with three items that you can use to start or energize a conversation whether its virtual or not. They are everywhere: in the paper, online on news sites, and in our daily lives. Even the technical difficulties most of us experience with Zoom can be conversation starter. We ALL have a story!

Extricate and Circulate. According to manners experts, no matter what country we live in, one must learn to end conversations. Extricating oneself gracefully from a conversation is a must. When we’re in person working a room we can use these strategies and verbiage: “Well it was great to talk to you about….” Summarize the main thrust of your chat. Move about one quarter of the room away. No sense in standing in the same area near the person you just left. Circulate around the room. Find another solo or join a group. Stand on the periphery of the group and when acknowledged, step in.

Allow for Serendipity. It is the unexpected bonus that happens to you because of good timing. Because you are in that room or Zoom, at the event, or in that venue, opportunities will appear…which is my theory of marketing, meeting, and mingling: “You Never Know!” Attend every event with an open mind.

Make It Your Goal to Have Fun! People are attracted to others who are enjoying themselves. A sense of humor will help you manage and survive a myriad of situations because laughter is great medicine and makes for magnificent mingling! Event though you don’t have to travel to an event, a Zoom is still an effort. It’s worth clicking on the link with the intention of having a GOOD time, learning something new and meeting new people.

BONUS Tip: In this day and age, we are wise to leave our tools and toys of technology out of sight and/or in the “off” position. Unless we are waiting for a new heart, we can live in the moment and be disconnected from our devices for a little while. The message you give when you “work” a room with your Bluetooth Ear Buds in to your ear, checking your phone or texting is: “No one I’m talking to here is important.” That leaves an impression; but not the one you may want to make.

Be a Savvy Networker.

Networking is a different skill from being able to mingle, socialize, and work a room. Together, all these efforts contribute to success. Here are some of the actions to take to ensure that you build your reputation as a savvy, reliable networker.

Acknowledge people who have given you time, leads, advice. Keep them “in the loop.” Be generous with your credit. Do so publicly in front of bosses, family, and colleagues.

Match-make/Connect people you know with job leads, contacts, prospects, and generously give referrals. It comes back. Caveat: If you’ve been the recipient of leads and referrals, remember to acknowledge and “pay back” the favor.

Recommend service people (the mechanic, barber, dry cleaners), restaurants, and barbers.

Stay in touch with your network even when you need nothing from it. That makes it easier to get in touch when you need help/advice/leads. Send an email, a text, LinkedIn message or a handwritten note.Old School and yet memorable! If you really want to stand out, pick up the phone and make a call!

Follow Up with the people whose contact information you collect whether at the hardware store or at the Zoom business event. Without follow up, we don’t have a network. Send an email; invite them to be “Linked In.” If you don’t devise a system to organize the follow-up process, all is lost. Use the RoAne “TAP” method. Be Timely, Appropriate, Persistent. If we “work” rooms and don’t follow up, we will not have netted a network to work!

All programs are available as VIRTUAL presentations.

Find more valuable information in How To Work A Room® , by author and keynote speaker, Susan RoAne; available in local and online bookstores and for Kindle or your iPad. For more information, free articles, and the opportunity to view Susan’s videos and interviews, visit or click here for her YouTube channel.

Susan RoAne is a (legit) best-selling author and international Keynote speaker who shares the strategies of connecting and communicating in any room. She can be found at and followed on twitter @susanroane.

Please note that the phrase How To Work a Room® is the registered trademark for the exclusive use of Susan RoAne.

About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915