How to Make Emotional Connections Online

In sales guru Dan Solin’s latest book, The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read, Dan includes a section on the power of video conferencing for creating emotional, human connections online. I was fortunate to be asked to provide my insights for the video conferencing chapter:

According to Sean O’Brien, an executive for the company behind iMeet, the formula for successful interaction is simple: “The more personal the meeting, the more productive it is.”

Creating emotional connections virtually doesn’t have to be more difficult than doing it in person; rather, we tend to view the technology piece as a barrier. Things like small talk, a firm handshake, showing off pictures of the family, the act of trading business cards, the constant non-verbal cues we use to express like and dislike—all of this is present and possible online, but is often buried underneath downloads, connections and unintuitive interfaces.

Building on some of Dan’s thoughts from The Smartest Sales Book You’ll Ever Read, here are some tips for creating true emotional connections online.

Be Your True Self

In Dan’s book, in the chapter titled “E-Connect,” he talks at length about how websites and brands can present more genuine faces to their customers to create real connections. Instead of relying heavily on slogans and overly professional designs, he suggests that websites sprinkle in personal photos and stories, allowing for more engaged readers and customers.

When you’re having online meetings, the same principles apply; don’t be afraid to be your true self. We often feel the need to put an entirely separate “business” persona in our meetings that hides some of our quirks: our sense of humor, for example, or maybe a shared interest. It’s the equivalent to hiding behind a slogan or corporate messaging. It may be true, but it’s not your whole truth.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s still a need for a sense of professionalism and decorum, and navigating those types of meetings is a key skill in today’s business climate. But if you’re comfortable, let your true self shine through, and your meetings will be more impactful and engaging.

Share Your Passions and Loves

The newest member of the O’Brien family.

I have a lot of passions and hobbies in my life. I try to run every day. I absolutely love seeing live music, even if I’ve never even heard of the group playing. And my wife and daughters mean the absolute world to me.

When I bring someone into my physical office, they’re going to see pictures everywhere of my wife and girls, the latest drawings my daughters have made for me and dozens of photos of our new puppy. Why should meeting me online be any different? I’m the same person there as I am in-person, and putting those facets of myself on display are what creates memorable personal connections. Share photos of you engaged in your hobbies or spending quality time with the family, and you’re much more likely to connect with your meeting guests than sharing a canned suit-and-tie headshot.

Turn the Camera On

There is absolutely no excuse to meet online without your webcam on anymore, particularly if you’re meeting someone for the first time or meeting with someone you’re trying to impress. Whether it’s a client, a manager, an employee, a vendor or a prospect, the video component to online meetings is absolutely crucial to develop real connections.

Body language conveys an immense amount of our meaning in conversations, and meeting without it speaks to my earlier point about technology as a barrier; it’s actively preventing connection rather than empowering it. High-quality video is too easy to access these days to have online meetings without it.

Technology has been empowering virtual meetings for years now. However, the next hurdle is creating truly engaging online connections that extend beyond things like IMs and presence and start to truly rival face-to-face meetings. While part of it is still a technological question, a great deal of the work to be done is behavioral. Together, we can start to create more meaningful online connections today.

About Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien is PGi’s Chief Administrative Officer. He oversees the company’s Legal, HR and Program Management organizations and manages Corporate Development, M&A and Acquisition Integration. In addition, Mr. O’Brien leads Corporate Strategy, Executive Communications and Global Facilities Management.

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