Virtual Networking

Virtual Networking

The pandemic has caused seismic change in many businesses.

Almost overnight, when the UK went into lockdown, companies that had always relied on networking, training, and selling in person had to find alternative solutions fast.

In order to survive they had to remain visible.

This scenario ushered in the rapid take up of virtual networking. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams became the norm and helped solve a significant potential problem for businesses large and small.

Initially expected to be a temporary solution, once people became more confident – and forgiving – with any tech issues, and adapted to an unfamiliar interface, virtual platforms have become a ubiquitous part of working life.

In fact, some workers entering the workplace during the last 18 months may not have experienced any alternative – and for those in work pre-pandemic, virtual working has been a necessary lifeline to avoid disconnection both for individuals and business as a whole.

What’s more, it seems to have gained positive momentum as a way of working regardless of the pandemic. The use of virtual platforms has turned out to be a convenient, quick, time-efficient way to work and without the additional pressure – and the actual time taken – to be in a set place at a fixed time, employees and businesses can be genuinely more productive as well as saving money.

However, there are some potential downsides to using a virtual platform.

Firstly, there is a lack of personal engagement as people just interact with a screen. The efficient nature of the process inevitably means that the personal connections forged around water coolers and coffee breaks struggle to develop. Though in-person working might on occasion have been tiring and stressful, it was also fun, and it provided the opportunity for out of hours socialising – all of which boosted employee engagement.

Conversely, meetings taking place on virtual platforms have the potential to be tedious as it’s challenging to replicate the wow factor. Just looking at a person on a screen – especially if the delivery is lacking – without anyone else around or any physical connections can make it very easy to lose concentration. While people would be unlikely to get up and walk out of a physical meeting, it’s very easy for them to disappear from a virtual one – and the other attendees or host might not even know.

Nevertheless, despite the pros and cons, businesses are unlikely to stop using the technology so what’s the next stage for virtual platforms?

Zoom has created ‘Immersive Backgrounds’ to try and make video calls feel more in-person and a bit more like an actual meeting. Attendees are placed in a more realistic setting rather than a flat background which, for example, works well for training, classrooms or presentations. Microsoft Teams has Together Mode which can place meeting attendees in the same virtual scene together, using cut out faces and shoulders for easier placement.

It’s undoubtedly a step-up from standard Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but what’s the next stage? If virtual platforms are here to stay, then they need to evolve.

And virtual interactive events may be the next iteration.

Virtual interactive platforms can create versatile, flexible, solutions for webinars, guided or free-roam virtual product showroom experiences, guided tours, and interactive presentations to boost engagement and bring interested groups together. And, as they can be personalised, they are adaptable and scalable to fit the changing needs of a business.

The best of both worlds, interactively.