How to Make Virtual Connections Meaningful

In an era where business has shifted predominantly online, it can be challenging to create meaningful virtual connections. The whole world has adjusted to turning on their computers and video cameras instead of going into the office or having meetings in-person to form these relationships. To foster these connections, humans need to be physically near each other, so why do we still rely so heavily on our virtual presence? 

Conducting business virtually has proven to be efficient and effective in multiple ways. It allows people to meet someone across the world that they would have never been able to meet or quickly hop on a Zoom call in minutes instead of scheduling a time to travel. On the other hand, technology can get in the way of forming a truly meaningful and worthwhile relationship. Computer screens and phones stand in the way of businesses or new friends from developing deep, personal bonds. As humans, we cannot rely on power outlets and wifi to form our relationships; we need handshakes, hugs, and genuine conversations. 

The Importance of In-Person Connections 

According to a study by Forbes Insights, 85% of people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during face-to-face interactions. Meeting in person allows both parties to read body language and facial expressions and use context clues to understand a personality. Meeting in person focuses on the human connection, requires everyone to be fully present, and limits distractions.  Lots of communication is nonverbal, and this is hard to see when we are only limited to a small window on our screens. By not meeting in person, we miss out on critical elements of forming a bond. Online communications should be used as an asset that further builds these relationships, rather than being seen as the sole means of developing them. 

On the Other Hand…

Having the opportunity to create in-person relationships is becoming more scarce. People are advancing their networks outside their city or state barriers, making it harder for them to meet. This distance is where virtual connections come into play. It allows businesses to make an impact outside of their specific region and meet with people instantly. Although some of the benefits of in-person meetings are lost, online communications allow more employees to engage with clients, create more inclusive workplaces, and are more environmentally friendly. 

Being online can also take some stress off of meeting a new person. When people are in their environment, they are more likely to open up more, get straight to the point, and ease tension. Being in their environment can also make the other party more comfortable and eager to meet with you in person at a later point. 

An essential aspect of virtual connections is reaching out whenever you want. People forget that staying updated on each other’s lives is meaningful, and this is one of the biggest challenges remote workers face. Since these meetings are taking place online, it should be easier for us to reach out whenever we can. This shows the other person that you genuinely care about forming this relationship. Offering these small moments of showing them that you care can go a long way.

By connecting virtually, sometimes we forget that small talk still makes a significant impact. Taking five minutes to talk to someone about their day before getting into the business aspect of the meeting can build trust and more open, honest communication between two people. Of course, this is easier in person because of the human need to fill the gaps of silence between conversations, but this is also a critical part of forming a virtual connection. 

How Can I Build a Virtual Connection?

Making virtual connections can sometimes seem complicated, but there are many ways that our team has been able to stay connected and engaged across the country. If you implement some of these strategies, you will be able to form deeper connections: 

  • Show your authentic self. Even though you face a screen, it is essential to remember that this meeting is as crucial as in person. First impressions still matter virtually, and it is apparent when someone is genuine or not. 
  • Don’t forget to smile! Smiling at a screen can be an odd feeling at first, but it is still meaningful to make sure the other person on camera feels comfortable with you and knows you are attentive and engaged in the conversation. 
  • Show how you can be helpful. Of course, it is easy for us to ask our colleagues questions or for help online with the click of a button. But, show that you can return the favor by giving back on a personal level and showing them that you are appreciative of their support. 
  • Learn online etiquette. Ensure your face is visible on the screen and you are paying attention. It is harder for someone to know if you are focusing on them or not. Make them comfortable and use eye contact and attentive body language. 
  • Have fun with it! Keep people engaged by sending emojis or making group chats beyond work. This communication will help people continue to make virtual connections by adding in aspects of entertainment. 

Moving Forward with Virtual Connections

As technology advances, so will the need for human interaction. However, that does not mean that we cannot work together to form these meaningful virtual connections with our online environment. If you follow these tips and make sure you are using online meetings to your advantage, these relationships will be able to be sustained and create a deeper meaning. The internet offers us many opportunities to meet new people; we cannot rule out the importance of being physically present with one another. Still, there are ways that we can make virtual connections count. 

At Online Optimism, one of our values is, “screens will not replace handshakes”. Digital communication has helped our team stay connected through the pandemic and we see working online as an asset, but we believe that human interaction is irreplaceable in a technology-infused world. To learn more about our values click here!