Virtual Coffee Chats — The Future of Building Relationships

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I recently shifted to working from home and practicing social distancing like everyone else. During this time, I found myself to be a bit lonely without the meaningless office interactions and spontaneous conversations you get by being in a shared space.

Although we are encouraged to social distance, it is important that we find creative ways to build our personal and professional relationships. Surprisingly, it is not hard to do. I’ve dubbed this the “virtual coffee chat”. Opening up a video conference takes seconds and can easily replicate the same experience as if we were face to face.

Videos can be more intimate than in-person meetings

I found video meetings to be more nerve-wracking and intimate than any other form of communication.

There is virtually no distraction, no noise, or any distracting stimuli beyond what happens between you and the other party. It is just a close-up view of two faces where every subtle expression or action is noticed.

At first glance this was daunting and uncomfortable, however after several weeks of virtual coffee chats, I’ve found that I am having more meaningful conversations in a shorter amount of time than I ever would in a restaurant or café.

Video conferencing software that I use

  1. Zoom
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Zoom is free for one on one meetings, however, it can support up to 1,000 participants at the same time, and up to 49 videos on a single screen for their premium membership. Meetings can also be saved locally or to the cloud, along with transcripts that have searchable text to work with. My favorite aspect of Zoom is the virtual background effect, which you can choose your background and Zoom will perfectly integrate you into the background.

2. Facetime

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Facetime is an amazing platform that has many cool features like using an animoji to represent you. However, I would recommend using this platform for more casual meetings.

3. Skype

Photo by Mati Flo on Unsplash

Skype is a household name that will serve as a strong platform for many people. Skype can be used in a browser, which makes it convenient for people who do not want to install apps.

Checklist of things for a successful virtual coffee chat

  • Having a “presentable” video setup. You do not need studio-level lighting or background but do be dressed presentably, and angle the camera so it captures your face and upper body. If you have a messy background either set up a virtual background or fix up your background so it is not distracting. To mimic eye contact, move the person’s video as close to your camera as possible.
  • Building rapport. When we have in-person interactions, we usually start with a casual conversation to settle in and be comfortable. Do not leave this part out just because the interaction shifted virtually. It is essential to build rapport when establishing personal relationships, and is a vital step toward easing the anxieties that many are feeling right now.
  • Prepare a drink. There have been studies that show seeing another person eat or drink helps relax the environment and open both parties up for more engaging conversations. So prepare a simple drink like a cup of coffee or tea before your meeting to help ease into more meaningful conversations.
  • Have a clear start and end time. Although people have more free time now working from home, we still have to respect their time as we would in a normal meeting scenario. I personally find that I get just as much from a 30-minute virtual conversation compared to an hour of in-person conversation.

Final thoughts

Virtual coffee chats can be intimidating as we adapt to this unfamiliar and unprecedented time, however, we must continue to build meaningful relationships and connections as humans are naturally social creatures.

Give virtual coffee chats a try, have fun, and stay healthy!

If you have your own experience in virtual coffee chats, please feel free to share it in the comments below. I would love to hear your experiences!

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Financial Analyst with a passion in fitness & traveling around the world

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Raymond Tung

Raymond Tung

Financial Analyst with a passion in fitness & traveling around the world

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