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Feb 2021 – Networking in a Pandemic – ISA St. Louis Section

Feb 2021 – Networking in a Pandemic – ISA St. Louis Section

Recently a few of my colleagues wrote an article about lessons we have learned during the pandemic (You can find that article in Pumps & Systems – pumpsandsystems.com Planning for the Unexpected: 5 Lessons Learned From COVID-19). The article covers how some work priorities, processes, and product considerations have changed in the pandemic. Well, that got me thinking a bit about some of our soft skills in the pandemic, and specifically networking.

If you are like me, prior to last year you dreaded ‘virtual’ events and meetings. You probably multitasked, half-listened, or just even completely tuned such events out while you focused on other activities. And a webcam? Forget it! A piece of electrical tape? Now you’re talking. Pre-pandemic the virtual world just wasn’t my thing. I enjoyed the face-to-face experience. I loved the networking aspect of the events. I learned, expanded my industry contacts, made friends, and even made sales during networking events.

While we have been discussing a socially distanced networking event this summer, that is still months away at best, and will look very different from our usual networking/dinner/programming events. So how do we make the best of this current virtual world while still honing our networking skills? I wish I had all the answers, but here a few tips I have picked up:

  • Attend. It is easy to RSVP and fill up your calendar. A friend of mine in college gave me some great advice – 80% of it is just showing up. Think about it for a second. He was right – you signing on to listen in to a speaker or a program isn’t just a great start, it is more than most are willing to do.
  • Give the virtual event your full attention. Easier said then done, but I have learned to silence my phone and close my email and instant messenger. Removing those distractions keeps me focused on the virtual event.
  • Find ways to engage. If the event is interactive – great! Speak your mind, add a question to the chat, or add a perspective from your own expertise. If the event isn’t interactive, find a way to follow up after the event. Like a speaker’s point? Then reach out after the event to the speaker. Have an idea for a follow up event? Reach out to the event coordinator. Take it from me as a former Programming Chair – they are always looking for new event ideas.
  • Mind your microphone and camera. Know how to mute and unmute both the microphone and camera. If you are just listening to a presenter, be sure to be mindful of this. I am sure we have all been in virtual programs now where “that attendee” has their mic open and their dogs are barking, and their kids are yelling, and their neighbor is mowing the yard, and …. well, you get it. Use your camera when you can – once again be mindful of not just your surroundings (confession here – my toddler appeared in a meeting waving a toilet wand around like a sword. Not ideal.). This also leads to my last tip …
  • Dress for the event. This is probably more of a pet peeve of mine then a true tip, but it is simple - If you are presenting, wear what you would if you were presenting in person. If it is a professional event, stick to your normal business dress code and you’ll be good. I love a good hoodie as much as the next guy, but maybe not for business related events.

 

Looking for other ways to network? Well, we have plenty now – ISASTL.org, ISA St. Louis is also on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and of course ISAConnsect at ISA.org.

I sincerely hope to see you virtually as we continue our Energy Efficiency programs, this month on Air, and in case you missed the Steam presentation – hop on over to our YouTube page to view the archived program. Want to take your networking skills to a new level and get involved? Please reach out to me as we are always welcoming of new volunteers to our amazing Board of Directors.

Until next time,

Cory N. Kniepp

ISA St. Louis Section, President

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