By: Matthew Fazio, Communications and Development Coordinator
Whether you are trying to grow your business, grow your professional network, or support an organization, traditional networking has been a great way to do so. However, for nearly a year now our networking has looked very different. Even in the cases where events do occur, capacity and spacing has made it feel very different. Many of us crave that personal interaction, and we miss those opportunities. I know I do! Walking into a filled room, seeing smiling faces, shaking hands, and having in-depth discussions. But until things change, we must adapt. Here are four tips for networking during a pandemic.
Attend Virtual Events
By now many of us have experienced Zoom fatigue. One virtual meeting after the next causing us to feel burnout. So, when met with an opportunity to attend an optional event, many say no. This is a very real experience, but it doesn’t mean we should stop attending meetings. Instead, we need to practice some good habits like building in breaks between sessions, taking time away from the screen, and reducing too many things on the screen at once. These will all help with Zoom fatigue and may allow you to attend some networking events.
When you attend the event, make sure you don’t just turn on the screen and scroll on your phone: actually participate. Respond in the group chats, speak up and ask questions, and find ways to actually engage with the event. Many people I talk to who dislike virtual events say that they feel like they are not connected. You won’t be connected if you don’t engage in the discussion. Sometimes it can feel a little awkward, but it is worth it!
Follow-Up with an Email
After attending a virtual event, make it a priority to reach out to someone. This is a way to make an impact. This can be a person you already know or someone you just met. You can keep a conversation going through email, or even schedule a time for a more in-depth discussion.
One of the best ways to do this is by listening during the virtual events. Listen to what others are saying and what they care about. You can identify a single concept and email them about that. You will be surprised with how quickly you grow your network this way.
Join Online Communities
Virtual events are typically augmented versions of existing events. If you are looking to expand your reach, consider joining online communities. I especially recommend this for people who are looking for professional development.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook have groups that are industry specific. I like joining groups on LinkedIn because I then have access to articles on trends and topics within my field. To fully leverage these groups, you can actually connect with individuals. This can help you grow your network and stay current on emerging trends within your field.
Schedule Time for Phone Calls
Finally, consider scheduling time for checking in with people within your network. Obviously, this is a good idea to do for existing clients, but it is also a good idea for prospective clients, industry professionals, and friends. Many people are struggling with the limited human interaction. Although mediated meetings are better than no meetings, there is still a difference. Schedule time each week to make a few calls.
You will remain top of mind for potential clients, and (perhaps more importantly) you will have an opportunity to engage on a more meaningful level.
Many of us truly miss the human interaction with networking in person, but we can still engage with people if we look to find some creative solutions.