How to Make Meaningful Connections at an Online Event

you know that little voice of doubt in your head that shows up at all the wrong times? sometimes you need to tell her to take a hike!

That’s what I had to do when I reached out to Monica Tetteh to ask her to be on the Dear Handmade Life podcast. I almost let that stupid voice get the best of me and I’m so glad I didn’t. We ended up recording one of my favorite podcast episodes of all time. We laughed, we cried, we even started collaborating on a creative idea together and all of it happened in a single hour of hanging out together over Skype.

And another time, I remember totally psyching myself up for a FaceTime chat with Meighan O’Toole, someone who I had met in-person for less than five minutes. All I could think about was, “What if we don’t have anything to talk about?” I bet you can guess what happened though. Yep! I pushed through that doubt and as a result, Meighan and I ended up talking for several hours and becoming fast friends, accountability partners and eventually even informally business coaching each other – all over the phone and via video chats.

If you would have told me ten years ago that it was possible to make the same kind of intimate connections that you can make in person in the online world, I would have given you one of my classic, ummm… hmmmm looks.

How can a video chat compare to a chance meeting in the elevator at a conference that turns into staying up too late swapping life stories in the hotel bar? Or striking up a conversation with that other person with the same purple hair as you only to find out you had a bajillion things in common? We are social beings. (Even us introverts.) We need camaraderie, acceptance, eye contact. It’s part of the fabric of connection.

This question was front of mind as we carefully crafted Camp Dear Handmade Life, our six-week at-home craft, business and goal-getting summer camp experience for creatives.

This is why the heart of Camp DHL is our Virtual Cabins.

We’ve taken the expert guidance of a mastermind group, the creative collaboration of a craft club, the support of an accountability partnership program and zipped them all together to make our Camp DHL Cabins. 

When you register for Camp DHL, you’ll answer a few questions so we can custom match you with the perfect cabinmates. You’ll inspire and support each other through the six weeks of Camp DHL and beyond!

Our Virtual Cabins aren’t the only way we make connecting easy and natural. Get to know Camp Dear Handmade Life’s other community-building aspects by taking a tour of Camp DHL!

Here are some tips to get you from ”what if there’s an awkward moment?” to “I can’t believe we just met, I feel like we’ve been friends forever” that you can use at Camp DHL and beyond!

1. treat an online event like an in-person event

Being fully present starts with how you prepare.

Prepare yourself by making yourself look however you want to look to feel confident and like your best self. For me, that’s a comfortable but artsy outfit (plus a nice, bold, red lipstick always does the trick to make me feel put together).

Prepare your space by turning your phone ringer off, putting a note on your door that lets your family or housemates know that even though you’re home, you’re not home. Make your environment as distraction free as possible, if this is tough in your situation and you have the budget, consider renting a hotel room or an AirBnB. You can even rent it with a group of friends (or soon to be friends aka other event attendees) if you find a way to do it safely (via testing, quarantining or if you’re vaccinated).

Prepare the basics by having the snacks and beverages you need on hand. Plan for your meals ahead of time so you’re not wasting time staring into your fridge but instead have a healthy and delicious meal ready to go!

2. be willing to be vulnerable

This is often easier said than done. To get yourself ready to be vulnerable, realize that you already have something in common with the people at the event – you all chose to be there. Something drew you in. A great way to open up the conversation is to ask, “What encouraged you attend Camp DHL?”

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s unlikely you’ll connect with every single person you encounter at an event. If you don’t spark with someone, don’t let it sour you on putting yourself out there with someone else. Each experience is different.

And, don’t forget, most people are busy thinking about their insecurities or agenda. It’s pretty much guaranteed that no one will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
-Brene Brown

3. R-e-l-a-x

First off, I HATE when people tell me to relax. So if reading that word made you cringe, I’m right there with you. But, having a few techniques in your back pocket to use if you start getting anxious will serve you so well! I love breathing to get calm quickly. Try breathing in as deeply as you can and then holding it for a few seconds and then pursing your lips and forcing the air out as if you were whistling. Or you can try my very favorite breathing technique: 4-7-8 breathing. If breathing isn’t your thing, take a quick walk around the block or sneak off and journal for five minutes. Find your easy-to-do-anywhere-and-anytime thing that will center and relax you and then use it.

4. go light before you go heavy

That instantaneous “we’re sharing our innermost secrets” moment may not happen in your first meeting. Not everyone has the same timeline for revealing their soft underbelly. Give other folks time to sink into their comfort level before pushing them to get too deep too fast.

5. know your numbers

Different people tend to thrive in different types of groups. My ultimate group number is three. With just myself and one other person I feel pressure to always be “on” and keep things going. With a third person in the mix, I’m able to relax and really focus on the conversation instead of getting caught in my own anxieties about how to keep everything flowing. Maybe you’re a one on one person or maybe you’re great in groups of five or more. Figure out your sweet spot and gravitate towards those situations. This may require you pushing yourself a bit to ask someone for a one-on-one virtual tea chat or ask two of your cabinmates if they’d like to have a craft night with you.

6. have a framework for your meetup

At Camp Dear Handmade Life, we’ve taken care of this for you. Each week of camp, you and your bunkmates will receive an itinerary with self-paced solo challenges and group project collaborations as well as guided discussions to break down barriers and incite that rare kind of joyful, deep (and sometimes laugh ’til your sides ache) connection. You can use this idea for your own meet-ups by creating an outline for your meetings.

Now you’re armed with the tools that i use to make meaningful connections online and frankly i use some of these in-person too! You can use these tips if you join us at Camp DHL or in other online spaces, and next time that little voice pops into your head to try to let fear of rejection or being uncomfortable stop you from being vulnerable and taking that first step towards connection, community and friendship, you can say thank you and then show your inner critic the door.

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