Even though the world is opening up, there’s no going back to life ‘as was’. That means continuing to network online. Let’s explore how you can make the most of it.
Networking is the life blood of your business, and through the pandemic, you’ve no doubt had to readjust how you find your new connections and build relationships.
We’ve talked before on how you can make the most of offline networking as a speaker, author or coach. Whilst there are cross overs, it’s worth taking some time out to recognise that online networking will continue in our ‘new world’ so knowing how to make the most of it is vital. You need to make it work for you, and build it into your business routines, ideally so you can blend your online and offline networking to gain, sustain and grow your connections continuously.
Intentional networking does exactly what it says — you literally build your network and expand the numbers of people you are talking to. So how do you do that in our still mainly online world now?
Networking is the lifeblood of your business — whether you like it or not!
Making connections and widening your network is a sure-fire way to sustain your business. Those connections may not be immediate sales in your business; they may well be relationships that become referral partners and connectors for you. They will open doors through the people they know. It’s just good business to make time to network.
Being able to do so whilst being at home, attending remote networking clubs and organised events is a bonus. There’s no travel, we can just show up from where we are. But that does not mean that we don’t have to put effort in. As with all things, we get out from what we put in. You still need to prepare. Relationships don’t make themselves, and in order to be exposed to others who don’t know you, you still need to make a good first impression to kickstart that connection. Your new contacts need to understand who you are and what makes you tick as much as what you do and what you sell. You need to forge connections, be curious and figure out where someone fits in an organisation or situation to work out how you can support or help them. Networking is really all about learning — so you can identify the influencers, reach decision makers, get those gigs and expand into the regions or industries you need.
The opportunities are waiting.
Networking events give you the opportunity to literally talk to new people, and/or meet regularly with those you know or are getting to know, in an organised manner that allows you to not just do 121 conversations. The OUTCOME of networking is those 121s, but you need to get good at working the room, even if that room is online.
Many organised in person meet ups had to move to an online model at the start of the world locking down, and several have now got a blended or hybrid model. Most will continue to have some element of online networking. THAT is great news. It means you can reach further, without leaving home. Online networking is now not only about the organisations that traditionally were offline; you can find that virtual summits and conferences actively have inbuilt networking opportunities too.
It’s worth noting that once you find a group or network that works for you, it’s a good investment of your time and money. It’s worth paying for. It’s vital marketing channel that if used well will reap rewards. Online networking is the next best thing to meeting someone in person, and it yields great results. 67% of most relationships over time provides some direct income potential — through directly working with an individual, to referrals or options to speak which then bring financial rewards of their own. If you work it well it’s like having a team of marketers working on your behalf.
Online networking can be daunting; here are some helpful tips
- Get to know the process — and platform — and understand the do’s and don’t’s. Most platforms have explainer videos; get technologically savvy. Spend the time to understand what is required and what the structure is of the meetings you are going to attend.
- Learn the technology and invest in some good quality equipment. Being heard is still THE most important thing, even in a video environment. Understanding your own equipment — how to mute and unmute as a minimum — and the features of a platform (how the chat function works for example) can save you time and make you look so much more professional, or at least not incompetent. All of which help to make a great impression
3. Set aside time BEFORE your networking session
- Prepare and rehearse your pitch — you are going to be asked ‘what do you do’ several times over, so you may as well make sure you have that nailed. First impression are still lasting ones.
- Pre meeting investigation– you’ll likely get a delegate list and with many of the online conferences and platforms you can now actively talk before a summit or conference — and organise to ‘meet’ at the event.
4. Set aside time AFTER your networking session
- Have a follow up strategy and set aside time to connect with and follow up on any promises, connections and set up any meetings you said you would.
- Set up an online calendar with slots that are easy to fill and make sure your diary is clear enough to provide time to build the connections (technically this is actually a pre-meeting activity! 😊 )
- Reach out to those you’ve connected with that made an impression on the platforms they most like to hang out on — friend request them, or even give them a recommendation or shout out or endorsement on LinkedIn for example
5. Be PRESENT whilst at your event
- It can be really tempting to multitask — especially online — so shut down everything else and turn off all your notifications. Treat it like an appointment and be wholly focused on the people you are there to meet and connect with
- As you talk to one person, just be with that one person, don’t look for the better prospect; instead, listen, connect, excuse yourself, find someone new.
These are of course as true for online networking (and in some respects much more possible pending the platforms you are meeting on) as it is for offline or in person networking.
Could online networking be your saviour?
Online networking is taking things to a new level and is BRILLIANT for those of us who dread (or used to dread) networking; it does mean approaching things slightly differently, but not much. And it can actually really open up things for those of you that as speakers, author or coaches are shy or introverted. It’s actually less draining for some to do networking from home. In many ways, you are much more in control of your own energy, not as impacted by the energy of others literally and you can choose when you leave or move around with more ease, as well as take a rest or a break by ‘hiding’ in the background. Which is not as noticeable online as it is when you are in a crowded room of people.
So what do you need to get used to when online networking
Networking platforms and ways to work are great, so becoming used to the functionality and set up of the technology helps. There are new specific platforms emerging that are specifically geared to networking, but several organisations have made use of what’s already on the market. Here are some to look at or get used to:
Zoom based networking — great for small intimate networking so do your homework: make sure your target audience is accounted for or it will feel like a waste of time. It’s great for longer conversations, usually with a crowd that you know or are part of.
A LOT of off line networking organisations and meetings simply moved to zoom, so get very used to how you show up, dress your best, learn how to use the technology and familiarise yourself with what makes for the best meetings for you. Be aware of any updates over time, more and more of them help you network even more efficiently.
Ask the organisers how the meetings work and if there is an agenda and what happens, especially if you are attending as a new person to the organisation. Take any trials before you commit longer term, and always insist on at least two if not three meetings before you do so (it will help you know that they are consistent).
Remember it’s still technology that’s adapted to a meeting that likely was in person before, so it may still be a little glitchy, pending how well your networking organisation is coping with that transition. Be patient and stay in your end result.
Remo based networking — this is a great (new) networking platform that really mimics being at a networking event, down to being able to ‘pull up a chair in a room’ with 4–6 people. Organisers can flexibly set up rooms of any size, presentations to be attended, bring everyone back together ‘en masse’ for bigger announcements. Whilst it’s a newcomer, where zoom wins for meetings, Remo is cornering the marketing for networking. It’s slick and good. Organisers will have invested in this, so expect your event to be well organised and treat it very much like you would any in person event. You can see examples of the kinds of networking events that take place on their website so you can start to make shortlists of where to show up. These events can easily have 200+ people in them, so it’s no small affair and being prepared is vital.
Whova.com: Virtual summits taken to a new level where networking can take place and is usually now built in by the smart organisers. At a recent PSA Adapt Your Impact event that Kelly spoke at, we connected to lots of people even before any of the actual talks had taken place! Here are some of the features that might just appeal:
- You can see the list of attendees, and can even reach out to them, for connection later on or to share views
- You can see the details for all attendees that give permission for it, including email addresses
- The app allows you to talk in real time around the talks and events and exhibitors
- They have Community rooms where you can share your opinions (so you can get to know people, then reach out individually, and indeed ‘show up’ and ask questions so it’s more interactive’)
A reminder to put the effort in up front, on the day, and afterwards!
- Get clear on your intentions for any networking you do, so you don’t waste your time, or theirs
- Remember it’s a medium or longer term strategy — you are building relationships, not going for the sale!
- Use the Go-Givers principles — go to give, not to get, Bob Burg’s brilliant book is a great read, even in our online times. Keep thinking about how you can serve, it will pay you back handsomely
- Be familiar with the platforms and the features — spend a little time learning , so you don’t waste time during the event
- Have a follow up system in place, that’s where the real magic actually happens
- Have your profiles, links, bios written out ready to share, make it part of your preparation to fill in all the ‘profile’ elements where you can, as people can AND WILL check you out — just as you’ll be doing for them. Also these are available for much longer access in many cases. 😊
So think about how you will use online networking?
The key to online networking is to set aside time, and build it into your marketing activities, don’t just bolt it on. Do your homework — what are the networking groups that have and attract your ideal client avatar. Identify which ones to go to regularly, and which one you might try out for the first time. You want this to be a GOOD use of your time, not something you resent that does not provide you with leads or connections.
For those of you who are looking to connect more informally to fellow speakers, authors and coaches, do come and join us in The Connection Hub where we have over 11000 peers for you to meet. Who knows what might happen?!