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Staying Connected in These Corona Virus Times

The physical distancing required during this moment is tough on everyone, even the most introverted or shy among us. For our own professional and personal emotional well-being, we must stay connected in these corona virus times to our co-workers, our teams, our colleagues, our contacts, our neighbors and our cousins. And there are all manner of platforms available to us to do so, whether you’re holding a staff meeting on Zoom™, catching up on Facetime with an old friend, or going really old-school and calling your grandmother on a landline, if you still have one. (I mean a landline).

Successful networking is about building relationships. Staying in touch with people, and being of service, especially when we aren’t asking for anything in return, speaks volumes about us, and strengthens bonds for the future.

Even though we might be sequestering ourselves at home to protect ourselves and others, there are still ways to nurture and grow your network online.

Stay visible. Even though many of us are on Shelter-In-Place orders, we can be “seen“ on many platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. We can show up in live video chats, post an interesting article, photo or food for thought. We begin or continue to engage in a discussion by reading, liking and commenting on other peoples’ posts.

Share your ideas. Whether it’s a suggestion for a new project, a youtube video on how to sew a mask or a recipe for sangria or recommending a valued book, sharing information is thoughtful. When you listen to a participant in a virtual meeting and have an idea or a lead for them, let them know. You can do this within the meeting but doing so in a private message may be more meaningful.

A longtime pal, the managing partner of a professional firm told me he asked himself this question, “What’s the worse thing that could happen?” He said that it never did!
You may be hesitant to share information with a boss or the boss’s boss. But if you observed the artwork in the office or heard her say that she’s a fan of impressionist painters why wouldn’t you let her know about Musee D’orsay’s virtual tour of their works by Renoir, Manet, Monet and Degas? What’s the worst thing that could happen??? The boss might say, “I’ve already seen it.” And may add, “Thank you anyway.” That’s not so bad.

Share a lead or referral. One doesn’t have to be in the same physical room or Zoom room to offer to introduce people. While some people call this networking or connecting, I call it “matchmaking”! (Think of the iconic musical Fiddler on the Roof; now on Prime Video). If someone in one of your linkedin or facebook groups indicates they’re looking for a videographer, book proposal editor or new position as an architect or a hair colorist and you know of someone who fills the bill, let them know. Check to see if they’re open to an e-intro and if they are, send one.

Share an article. It’s another way to continue to network in this age of corona virus, Stay Home Orders. When you listen and observe, you’ll learn what issues, charities, sports teams and non-profit organizations are important to your boss, clients, mentors, colleagues and friends, When you read an article or post that’s in an area of interest, send it to them. Include a note that says, “I read this and thought of our visit, meeting, conversation and wanted to be sure you saw it.” Doing so is another way to build a connection.

You can copy the URL and email, text or DM them on Slack. Or go “Old School” and US mail them the print copy version. Yes, with a 55¢ stamp you can help #SaveOurPostOffice. Hand address the envelop and handwrite a note or a post-it that says, “Thought of our conversation when I read this article.” It’s memorable and appreciated and will contribute to your visibilty.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal interviewed #GoldenStateWarriors MVP, Steph Curry about how he’s practicing his shooting baskets in the era of six feet of physical separation. His answer was so charming and self-effacing. His said his wife Ayesha bought him a Spalding hoop for his driveway that came unassembled. He admitted it took him five hours to assemble. It must have been the IKEA of basketball hoops. My colleague cut it out and mailed the article to a devoted Steph fan who later called him to say thank you. “He’ll remember that I listened when he talked about The Warriors, thought of him and took the time to send him an article he liked.” Will this fan hire or ever do business with my colleague? You never know! But he will remember him!

Share a story. Doing so with someone in your network is another way to strengthen connections. If something happens that reminds you of a colleague, co-worker or former boss that is positive, memorable or makes you laugh— let that person know. “I just heard this amazing/funny/interesting story that reminded me of the time our team had to design a new feedback system.” Shared laughter not only releases feel good endorphins, it also builds social bonds.

Here’s how we can stay in touch during this global pandemic (and after):

ZOOM is one of the most used platforms at this time. There were 343,000 downloads in one day during this corona stay home decree.
People are in Zoom rooms attending meetings, summits, executive sessions, classes, concerts, dance parties, family gatherings, “cocktail” hours, bridge games, yoga classes, religious gatherings and more than a few Passover Seders and Easter Brunches.
Zoom Basic is free and it’s easy to use. If you download Zoom, you can host gatherings of 40 minutes up to 100 people. Although there’s a 40 minute limit to the event, there is a workaround. You click on the link again and you’re back in the event. You only need a link from a host to attend an event. WORK that ZOOM Room!

Bonus: Zoom is also a bridge between IOS and Android users.

For the best look:

FACE the light or face a window. If it’s in the evening, put one of your lamps in front of you. You can test how you look in the selfie mode of your phone’s camera.
People have been admitting to wearing sweats, even pjs in these “lockdown” days. But if you’re attending a meeting, event or celebration…don’t.
As with in-person gatherings, the attire depends on the theme/reason for the virtual event. For the Passover Seder, I made sure that I dressed. Of course I was wearing (nice) jeans but I had on a nice sweater, scarf, earrings and yes, makeup. After all, it’s a holiday. Or as my Grandmothers might have said, “Don’t dress like a schlub.”
Families and friends wanted to gather—even though it was online— and celebrate, honor traditions and have fun. We’ve survived our first Corona Passover, and Easter Zoom holidays! And so will those who will be celebrating online Zoom Ramadan.

If you’re the host:

Introduce people or have them briefly introduce themselves.
Include all the guests in the conversation.
Facilitate the event or meeting. That may mean you’ll need to “cut someone off”. You could thank a person for their (long-winded) contribution and invite someone who hasn’t said anything to participate. Or you can mute them or put them in the Zoom waiting room.

As an attendee:
Be prepared whether it’s a team meeting, a project, your book club or a social gathering.
Acknowledge peoples’ comments and ideas.
Look at the camera for eye contact…not at the screen/monitor.
Both participants and hosts should have a visually—pleasant background. Many television anchors, experts and media guests are also “working” from their homes. Seth Meyers has what looks like an attic door and a copy of The Thornbirds that have become part of his shtick. They all seem to have LOADS of books…organized in bookcases behind them. One anchor even color-coded her books. We don’t have to go that far.

Follow up with other attendees. It’s easy to do because their names and emails are often on the host’s invitation.
Send a thank you to the host and let the group know you appreciated being with them, hearing their contributions and that it was good to “see” them. These are the actions savvy networkers take after in-person events and it says a lot about your networking skills and thoughtfulness.

LinkedIn is another option for staying in touch professionally. It has over 675 million monthly users and is the most used social media platform for Fortune 500 companies. 30 million companies are on linkedin and it has multiple groups for each interest and profession. If you’re searching for a former classmate, colleague or boss or a profession that’s of interest, start with linkedin. There is an abundance of information including the thorough Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business by Ted Prodromou.
There are numerous LinkedIn Groups in every profession that you could join and become a contributing member. Follow the thread of discussions, offer to share a lead, an idea, a hint in an area where you have experience. Once you are comfortable in this online group and establish yourself as someone who is supportive of others, you can express areas you may need information, ideas, assistance and wisdom.

Facebook Live. You can host a session and welcome guests as they log on. They can send you questions and comments. Or just hang out. That reminds me, we still have google hangouts till June 2020…so far. It’s free and is limited in number of guests.

WHATSAPP has 1.5 billion users in 181 countries and also has a group meeting option. I’ve used it to stay in touch with friends, clients and family in other countries. When I was in other countries, I used it to stay in touch with my people here. And it’s FREE! Like other platforms, you can record a message that’s delivered half-way round the world and sounds like you’re next door. Be sure to check what time it is in other countries.

THE PHONE: While we are busy with social media, online platforms and the internet, let’s not forget that the telephone offers an intimate connection and an opportunity for a visit via the airwaves.

One of my favorite networking ideas is to be THE HOST. In How To Work a Room, I wrote that one of our roadblocks to meeting people is that old cliche, “Good things come to those who wait.” My remedy is to rephrase and reframe it: Good Things Come To Those Who Initiate. So be the person who initiates online “gatherings”. That simply means inviting people from various parts of your life to a get-together. Whether they’re groups of your classmates, friends, neighbors, co-workers, associates or colleagues, for people who are on “Shelter-In-Place” (I’m on Week Five) getting to “see” people and meet online for a “byob” (Bring Your Own Beverage)Meet and Greet is a wonderful face-to-face wonderful option even if it can’t be in-person.

I recently hosted a 1st Cousins Corona Catch Up Brunch. We live in six states, seven cities and our BYOB was Bring Your Own Bagel. Some of the cousins haven’t been together in decades and were thrilled to see one another. I had a photo of our grandparents to show them and said I’m sure they were thrilled their grandchildren were together even if it was a virtual gathering. We had a blast!

We’re here at home for several weeks (or months) more. If there’s a colleague, former co-worker or classmate you’d like to see, this is the perfect time. Send them a message saying so. I’ve always liked one-on-one visits but if that feels like too much pressure, invite a third person you may know who would be a good contact, source or resource for your friend.

In the BCV (Before Corona Virus) Days, author of Reinventing You and speaker, Dorie Clark, was at a conference in Napa and came to Marin County for dinner with podcaster and mastermind coach, John Corcoran. She invited me as the third wheel. Result: John and I also became friends, attended events together and he recommended me as a guest to his podcasters network.

The savvy networker makes things happen….for other people.

What’s important —as we are physically distanced and self-isolated—is that we stay connected to colleagues, co-workers, friends and relatives by whatever means and platforms possible.

Susan RoAne is a keynote speaker, university guest lecturer and best selling author of How To Work a Room and The Secrets of Savvy Networking. You can find her online at www.susanroane.com and at home…sheltering-in-place. Questions? susan@susanroane.com

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, susan@susanroane.com. 1.415.461.3915