The digital transformation of the legal industry went into overdrive the last few months. For many of us, how we work, where we work, and what technology we use has changed; however what has not changed is our need to communicate and connect with others.
With in-person meetings and large gatherings canceled for the foreseeable future, networking virtually has become the norm. While networking virtually has made it easier than ever to reach out to a stranger and connect, virtual interactions can still feel awkward and unnatural.
Here are some video-call etiquette and networking tips to help you mitigate the awkwardness of virtual professional networking and better connect with other legal professionals even when you can’t do so in person.
1. Utilize the Messaging Option
It is more difficult to have one-on-one conversations or side conversations in a virtual setting, which often happens organically during in-person networking. However, you can try to re-create these same interactions virtually by taking advantage of the messaging option to communicate with specific people or the group.
2. Connect Through Other Professional Networking Platforms and Social Media
Video calls are not the only way to network and make meaningful connections with others. You will find many opportunities to connect with other lawyers and professionals on professional community platforms, such as LinkedIn. Using LinkedIn is a great way to make an initial connection with someone you may not know, especially if you find it intimidating to make a phone call or email a stranger. It’s also a low-effort way to network anytime.
3. Give Yourself a Zoom Break and Use Other Methods of Communication
Video calls are now the standard method of communication, so we tend to default to video calls when scheduling a meeting. After months of daily video calls, I can tell you that Zoom fatigue is real. Don’t feel obligated to send a video call request. Offer phone as an alternative, so everyone can take a break from video calls.
4. Use a Laptop or Desktop for Video Instead of a Phone
If possible, avoid using a phone to join a video call. Unless you have the phone set down on a stable surface, the movement from holding it can be distracting to others on the call. The inevitable phone notifications and alarms can also interrupt the flow of the conversation.
5. Always Mute (and Unmute) Yourself
It’s amazing what sounds can be picked up over a video call, so make sure to mute yourself when you are not speaking. And don’t forget to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to speak.
Pro Tip: Instead of fumbling to find and click the unmute button, learn the keyboard shortcut to temporarily unmute yourself for the video call platform you are using; i.e., on Zoom you can press and hold the spacebar to temporarily unmute yourself.
6. Test Your Camera and Microphone Ahead of Time
Before your video call, test how your camera and microphone function with the platform. Be cognizant of potential background noises that may be present during your call. Will you be sitting next to a window when a landscaper will be outside with the leaf blower? Are you sitting in close proximity to a potential source of unexpected background noise (such as one embarrassing example of a toilet flushing during U.S. Supreme Court oral argument)?
Your laptop microphone may also pick up noises coming from your laptop, so use a headset with a microphone (for instance, the earphones that come with many modern phones). An external microphone usually provides a better audio quality, which makes the listening experience more enjoyable for everyone.
7. Frame Your Video Properly
While you are testing out your camera, this is a great opportunity to check your lighting, camera position, and background. Try to avoid sitting with a window or any bright light source behind you, which may make you appear too dark on the video. Check the camera angle and position so you either are looking straight or slightly up at the camera.
Keep at It and Stay Connected
Now more than ever, it is important to reach out to others, connect, and grow your network. Use these tips, so you can focus on making meaningful connections with others. And remember, shaking hands and passing out business cards may be gone for now, but networking, whether in-person or virtually, is here to stay.