Networking in 2021. How did the Pandemic change the way in which we community?
If this were a “normal” year, many would have attended all of the professional networking events to seek connections and resources for the goals, resolutions, and aspirations set at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has still stopped the way we gather in person. It has also changed the way people think about networking. Although our “new normal” includes masks and social distancing, our “new normal” should still include networking to create and sustain opportunities for ourselves.
When 2020 closed and 2021 started, there was a transition from more virtual and online events to in-person events. While online events like Connecting The Dots Virtual Luncheon have allowed us to create a more secure connection, online networking can be awkward and cumbersome. If you didn’t enjoy networking in person before the pandemic, I can understand that you don’t like networking with anyone virtually! Whether you attend events in person or online, networking isn’t as difficult as most people think it is. You don’t have to be an extrovert or have an amazing resume to be an amazing networker. All it takes are a few simple strategies along with an attitude of service to yourself that will make you a magnet for opportunity and influence on any event (virtual or personal):
Smile and be warm when you network
A smile and a welcoming manner are not only a way to greet someone, but also a way to transfer your POSITIVE energy to the person you meet. When you come across as a positive person, it will be easier for the other person to have a conversation with you.
Dress professionally and have background conversations.
The goal of networking is to make yourself unforgettable for the participants. The best way to stand out in a positive way (online or offline) and let people seek you out is to wear something that stands out professionally from others. This can include anything from a bow tie to a necklace, as long as it is professional and represents you. When you network online, it is a good idea to have standout elements in your background as well. Whether it’s an interesting piece of art or trophies from a previous competition, having “conversation starters” will make people want to talk to you.
As you network, listen more and speak less
The majority of people at networking events want to speak and “propose” themselves or their ideas. So leave them! Real networking is about listening and learning how to serve the people you meet. All people want to be heard and if you just listen you will become a resource and an asset.
Be a giver!
When you learn what others need for the event, you are passing on the resources they need without expecting anything in return. Most people won’t. When you do this, not only will you be memorable, but you will have someone ready to refer business to you. Indeed, it will inspire others to follow your example!
Keep the conversations short
While you might have some great conversations, keep in mind that there are other people to meet and connect with. Hold the conversation for about 5 to 7 minutes and schedule a meeting (online or offline) to continue the conversation and not miss any good connections. If you are networking at an online event, other members of your smaller networking groups can join the networking by keeping the conversation short.
Follow-up after the networking event
We can meet a lot of people at an event and it can be easy to forget who we are meeting and who is meeting us. For this reason, it’s important to get in touch with those we meet within 24 to 48 hours to keep up to date. The best follow-up is by phone call. Using email tracking is fine if that’s the best way to contact the other person.