To Zoom or Not To Zoom: Networking amidst a pandemic

Article by Shauna Wood

What is the best way to connect with people?

In light of the pandemic that has coiled and twisted normality into something completely
unrecognisable, the way we meet, speak and engage with people has changed.
With HASS having recently hosted its first in person networking event, which qualifies as an
advancement from the previous online Zoom format, it truly begs to be determined if more
meaningful and beneficial relationships are built face to face. But, can industry relationships
be founded through digital mediums and be just as valuable if networking in person is not

Under twinkling string lights hanging across UQ’s Natural Amphitheatre, students listened to
industry professionals speak about their achievements since graduating and their advice for
getting a foot through the door into the professional world. With the opportunity to develop
connections with industry experienced individuals, networking is invaluable to students trying
to garner a deeper understanding of the transition from student to fully fledged professional.
In the midst of the pandemic, HASS’s ‘covid safe’ networking events took advantage of the
all too familiar Zoom platform, which allowed students to maintain networking in light of
social distancing precautions. However, were the online events just as valuable as talking to
mentors in person?

Although social media platforms allow us to connect with more people than ever imagined,
there is always an element of disconnection. The same notion can be applied to networking
over Zoom. Talking and engaging with people in extreme circumstances such as a surprise
pandemic, is made accessible through digital meeting platforms. But the social cues and
body language that aid conversation and interactions are inevitably distorted by a screen.
Even more so, pre-arranged breakout rooms make connecting with mentors of your choice a
lucky draw. The main one-punch knockout that ultimately draws the win for in person
networking events, is the complementary food and beverages. If there is one thing university
students’ value, it’s free food.

Regardless of the tasty bonus of in person networking, there is ample opportunity to connect
with individuals of your choice, in a more relaxed environment that decreases the occasional
awkwardness of Zoom.

The verdict; whilst networking through a digital platform is a positive alternative to no
networking at all, it will never be the same as conversing in person with students and
mentors. Especially when you know for sure, they have not paired a crisp white business
shirt with a comfy pair of track pants hidden from the view of the camera.