Social distancing means professional networking activity will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, leading many networks and conference organisers to adapt events for go online. We’ve tried a few over the past few weeks with varying degrees of success, leading us to ask, can online networking really replace the connection forged in person over a cup of coffee? Perhaps, but it requires a very different approach.
Know who you want to get in front of
This is so important regardless of whether you are networking on or offline your hope is to focus time and efforts on engaging with the people who are most relevant to you. It will help you to deliver content that will resonate with your potential clients, suppliers and advocates. While it is tempting to chase as much engagement as possible, concentrating on fewer, better quality connections is far more valuable.
Raise your profile online
Spending time to develop your connections through LinkedIn, your blog and other social media is one obvious way to engage (or re-engage) with other professionals. Combine a mix of activity, including sending tailored introductory messages directly to individuals, publishing regular content that is relevant to a wider pool of contacts or engaging with other accounts. This will help you to build a varied, strong profile helping you to reach the right audience, and help you to invite professionals for a 1:1 virtual meeting.
Focus on small group events
Appreciative of the technical lags that can happen with video conferencing, some of the network organisers have focused on setting up smaller groups to cultivate more natural flowing conversation with fewer interjections. If you are attending events, make sure the organiser knows exactly who you want to connect with, share details of industry, location and size so they can help you to use the time to have the best conversations. You may need to tailor your existing elevator pitch to account for new formats, so it always helps to be aware of the theme or agenda for the event and, if possible, review the attendee list first.
Refer to create advocates
One of the most powerful networking techniques has always been personal recommendation. By introducing one person with a specific business challenge to another contact who can provide a solution, you are helping two contacts. While this may not immediately lead to deals and contracts, these contacts are more likely to advocate you in future. Interacting with other people’s content online will not only promote their news but also increase your visibility to a wider audience. ‘Matchmaking’ contacts, via direct messages or tagging them together in relevant posts, is a more natural but effective way to create stronger relationships. Work with friends and colleagues to introduce each other to new contacts and grow your network further.
Keep it human
Successful networking is about making connections with people not products or services. If anything the current situation has only helped professionals to speak more honestly and authentically with each other. The shared experience acts as a natural conversation starter, helping event the shyest of people initiate contact.
For advice on how to broaden your audience and create effective messaging, please contact Caroline Walker on 01732 779 087.