The New Normal
What did ‘networking’ look like before COVID? That is when in-person or face-to-face events were still a thing. You would get dressed, walk into the venue with a winning smile, try to remember faces, and have that elevator pitch memorized, ready to impress.
In current times, most of us have made ado with in-person interactions and are learning to work remotely. It may no longer be the standard to give office tours, catch up over coffee or show up at events where you chat about the weather (we’ve all done this when things get awkward). If you didn’t already know this, at least 10% of attendees at an in-person networking event don’t want to be there.
Fast forward to 2022. Setting up a meeting or event goes a little something like this:
Send a link > Add to calendar > “We look forward to meeting you!”
What began as a way to cope with a global pandemic has paved the way for a new and more adaptive way of networking. Virtual networking is now the new normal.
Virtual or In-person?
There is no short answer to this question. To succeed in networking, you need to embrace diversity. It’s the same as meeting someone in person and adding them to your social media networks to allow the possibility of reconnecting. Why say no when the best of both worlds are accessible? The rise of technology and social media has made this modern way of networking possible. Almost anyone can build their global business network without ever leaving the office (or home).
There are indeed several benefits to virtual networking. Let’s look at some of them in this post:
The Benefits of Virtual Networking
It is cheaper to organize events in the virtual world. Whether you’re an organizer or attendee, there is less spending involved. No need for tickets, no venue or catering costs, and hiring of on-site staff. Instead, resources can be used to bring in a higher ROI. Perhaps a stellar keynote speaker. Perhaps multiple speakers!
Do more in less time
In-person events take years to plan. Virtual events move at a faster pace and require shorter timelines to materialize. Activating a follow-up event can be done in a month or less. Your attendees will not forget about you by the next event and will most likely show up with what’s been covered still fresh in their minds.
Join from anywhere. All you need is a stable internet connection, a laptop, tablet, or phone. The chances of someone attending an event via a link are higher than someone having to set aside time to show up at an event. Are you sure the wine didn’t help at those events you attended on a Tuesday night?
Attendees no longer need to be in the exact physical location. Professionals don’t find it ideal to travel across the globe for small-scale networking events. However, with virtual networking, everyone can show up regardless of geographical differences or the size of the event. The world is your oyster.
Higher chance of making connections.
Networking can be challenging, but it can be easier to break the ice when done virtually. How many times have you attended an event with hundreds of people, only to aimlessly hang around corners and manage a few conversations?
So how can we make sure we reap the benefits of virtual networking? We’ve put together a fail-proof list of Dos and Don’ts.
#1 Do your Research
Identify individuals, organizations, and causes that are of interest to you. It could be related to your field of work. Explore forums that call out to like-minded business professionals such as yourself. In other words, find your people. Sign up to different mailing lists and anticipate those emails. Increasing the information you receive will expose you to relevant events. This makes it more likely for you to attend them. Don’t mark them as spam…yet!
#2 Do Make yourself Memorable
If you’re called to make an introduction, have a short but memorable elevator pitch ready. It might be challenging to make your mark when you’re just a thumbnail on the screen, but there are ways to stand out. You could say something funny. Be you. If you have the opportunity to show off your personality and lighten the mood, go for it. There is a possibility that everyone is feeling anxious.
#3 Do Take Names
Even if you don’t get to interact with everyone on the call, you can take down the names and look them up online later. It’s not creepy; it shows initiative. You would exchange name cards during in-person events, right? Virtual networking just calls for a different approach.
#4 Do Follow Up
This is where you can choose to take the interactions offline. Ask them out for coffee if you like. Send a quick email letting them know you’d like to continue the conversation and how you can work together in the future. Post-networking is where most potential clients drop off. A staggering 80% of professionals do not send follow-up emails after a networking session. Using networking tools such as ReferReach can help you organize your contact list. It even reminds you to send that follow-up. When you can view the entire conversation at a glance, you’ll keep better track of your leads.
#1 Don’t Sell
There is a time and place for everything. Your goal is to make genuine connections, so hold off on that sales pitch. Focus your energy on a solid introduction so that everyone present during the call knows what you have to offer. Use it to your advantage. They will hear you clearly through a headset. Something that you cannot guarantee in a busy venue.
#2 Don’t Expect
We’re not saying you shouldn’t have any expectations. You can. However, paying it forward will put you in a positive light. When you network not just with your interests in mind but to help others, that is when you have mastered the art of effective networking. You will find that working this way encourages collaboration and increases the chances of gaining referrals. According to Forbes, 78% of marketers say that referrals generate good leads. Let go of expectations. Do good, and good will come to you. This is something our founders stand by!
#3 Don’t Only Focus on New Connections
Making connections don’t stop at introductions. Touch base with your existing contacts. You can do this by setting some time aside every week to connect with a number of contacts on your list. “Keeping in loose touch” is a concept by Karen Wickre. Basically, it’s the act of popping up in someone’s mind (or smartphone screen) every so often to build a relationship.
#4 Don’t Give Up
Don’t be discouraged if your efforts are not paying off after the first few networking rounds. There will be enough time for you to build quality relationships. If you need advice, speak to someone you look up to. Having a mentor can point you in the right direction. Your mentor might even be able to provide networking opportunities to boost your visibility.
“I call it “keeping in loose touch”: You pop up now and again to your connections and acquaintances (old and new) without any obligation to follow up or see each other in person. If you do this when you’re not feeling needy, you will begin to see yourself as a giver, not a taker.” – Karen Wickre.
Bring the Human to the Network
Networking is essential in growing your business. It involves several skills – approaching others, finding common ground, listening, and maintaining relationships. Nobody becomes a professional overnight. These skills can be practiced and learned. Credible human expertise is still needed in a world being taken over by technological advances because the goal of virtual networking is still to make meaningful connections.
Do Download ReferReach
Looking for a better way to manage your leads? ReferReach is a business referral platform that lets you network smarter. Don’t miss out on great opportunities. Identify your potential partners, connect with like-minded individuals and deliver excellence!