How to connect in the virtual world

Posted by  Mark Schenk —August 4, 2022
Filed in Business storytelling, Communication, Corporate Storytelling

It’s not unusual for people to be a little sceptical of you when you meet them, especially for the first time. They don’t know who you are, what you want or whether they can trust you. But if the interaction goes well, and you establish a connection, there is a magical moment where they go from being sceptical of what you are saying to receptive.

Most of us know the importance of building rapport and achieving this magical transition. In person, we use our physical presence to get there—friendly smiles, a warm handshake, open body language, etc. And based on their body language, we can easily see if they are engaged.

But the global pandemic has robbed us of many opportunities for in-person meetings. So, what happens when most of our meetings are virtual?

Woman on Zoom call

In the virtual world, you are often just another Zoom call, and there is little opportunity to build rapport in the usual way. Virtual meetings are often transactional, with little preamble, a sharp start time and no post-meeting chat.

It might sound hopeless, but it’s far from it. We just need to think differently about connecting in the virtual world.

Story is a great tool for rapidly establishing connection and rapport. And it works just as well in the virtual world as in real life.

There are three key principles to bear in mind:

  • Be proactive: accept that creating the conditions for building and deepening relationships is your responsibility, and do it proactively.
  • Invest in building rapport: resist the temptation to jump straight into your meeting content and invest a few minutes into building rapport.
  • Keep things interesting: the engagement threshold is higher for virtual meetings. To capture and maintain interest, you need to be more interesting than you would in person.

I recently had a 30-minute call with the global head of a large professional services organisation. I spent nearly an hour finding my Connection Story. LinkedIn provided me with the insight I needed.

My first words were, “I understand you are in Guildford. That’s just near Farnborough Airport. I was there in 1993 for the Farnborough Air Show …” He immediately started talking about Farnborough and how lots of celebrities land their private jets there when travelling to London. We instantly formed a connection, and the sale was closed within 30 minutes.

If you don’t have time to prepare, be observant. You can use anything you see or hear in the background of a Zoom call as a cue to build rapport: their bookcase, a barking dog or the painting on their wall.

Building rapport is just as important in the virtual world as in person. You’ll need to be more purposeful about it, but if you are, you’ll experience the magic of them moving from sceptical to receptive.

Mark Schenk About  Mark Schenk

Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on:

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