Thanks to lockdown, we can now expect to be on multiple video conferences and networking events. But could it actually be more effective than traditional networking? Especially for introverts...
Other than the glaringly obvious reason, namely that face to face gatherings are restricted for the foreseeable, there are many reasons why online networking has become so popular. The most common being that it is so easy to access. All you need is a half-decent internet connection, a laptop, Chromebook or similar, and access to Zoom, Skype or whatever platform is being used.
Not having to get ready and travel to and from face to face networking sessions is also a benefit, saving a good amount of time and protecting work-life balance. Virtual sessions allow for increased flexibility for everyone, whether you have children at home to navigate or other commitments. Already very accessible, there is every reason to assume that there will be even more options in the future for online networking.
If you want to make the most of your networking session, look to build relationships instead of opting for the hard sell. Enjoy getting to know others, hearing about their businesses and sharing your own stories online. A recent Zoom networking session I enjoyed had us all sending our details and any offers we had in advance to go into a virtual goody bag.
The goody bag was emailed out to all attendees after the event. This meant no time was spent collecting business cards or scribbling down notes, rather than concentrating on active listening and clear and friendly communications. This model was much more relaxed and has already been very successful in terms of follow-ups.
There’s nothing worse than giving your details to someone who will then find an out of date LinkedIn, a poorly put together website and profile pictures so old that they don’t resemble your online networking face whatsoever. If you are going to do well with online networking, make sure that you can maintain your professional appearance after the fact too.
Decide in advance how much online networking you will do. It is very easy to jump in with both feet and sign up to numerous networking opportunities once you realise that you don’t need to leave the house for them. Think quality over quantity here though.
Networking is a valid tool for building your business but there are many other things you need to squeeze into your working week too. As well as the actual video sessions, you need to take the time to follow up with new contacts and answer any enquiries and social media requests.
We’ve all seen that video of Robert Kelly’s office being invaded by cute interlopers live on TV during an interview. It happens. I’ve had more than one client call over the years interrupted by a little someone shouting about a sibling’s dirty nappy or needing a snack. The world didn’t end and neither myself, nor Robert Kelly, lost work over it.
With that in mind, preparation is still a key factor when it comes to successful online networking. If there is a chance that you may be interrupted, be upfront about it. Also, remember that most video conferencing software has a mute option and that you can switch your video off if you need to pop away from the desk.
Make sure that your face is well lit, that the areas around you are clean and tidy and that you can be clearly heard. It’s as simple as that.
There are many benefits to online networking, not least that it is often cheaper than face to face opportunities. It is important to realise that face-to-face networking and online sessions can complement each other and that when the time is right, in-person networking meetings will continue to build successful business relationships.
In the meantime, enjoy getting to grips with this new, virtual and often less formal networking occasion. Like everything, it may take some getting used to. As a standalone networking method or mixed with in-person networking, it is easy to see why online networking is so popular.
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