If this were a “normal” year, one where many would have been heading out to any and all professional networking events to start looking for connections and resources for the goals, resolutions, and aspirations set at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 still has halted 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.
As 2020 closed and 2021 started, we saw a transition of more virtual and online events versus in-person events. While online events like the Connecting The Dots Virtual Luncheon have allowed us to connect in a safer way, networking online can be awkward and cumbersome. If you didn’t like networking in person before the pandemic, I can completely understand your not liking networking with someone virtually! Regardless if you attend events in person or online, networking is not as difficult as most make it out to be. You don’t have to be an extrovert or have an amazing résume’ to be an amazing networker. All it takes is a few simple strategies along with a mindset of service over self that will make you a magnet of opportunity and influence at any event(virtual or in-person):
Smile and be welcoming when you network
A smile and a welcoming disposition is not only a way to greet someone, it is a way to transfer your POSITIVE energy to the person you meet. If you come across as a positive person, the easier it will be for the other person to want to have a conversation with you.
Dress professionally and have background ‘conversation starters’
The objective of networking is to make yourself memorable to the attendees. The best way to positively stand out (online or offline) and have people seek you out is to wear something that professionally stands out. This can include anything from a bow tie to a necklace as long as it’s professional and it represents you. If you are networking online, it is a good idea to also have items in your background that stand out. Whether it’s an interesting piece of art or trophies from a past competition, having ‘conversation starters’ will get people to want to speak to you.
Listen more and talk less when networking
The majority of people at networking events want to talk and ‘pitch’ themselves or their ideas. So let them! True networking is about listening and learning how to serve the people you meet. All people want to be heard, and by simply listening, you become a resource and an asset.
Be a GIVER!
As you learn what others are needing in the event, pass on the resources that they need without any expectation of getting anything in return. Most people won’t do this, so when you do, you will not only become memorable, you will also have someone that will be willing to refer business to you. In fact, it will inspire others to follow your lead!
Keep conversations short
While you may encounter some great conversations, keep in mind there are other people to meet and connect with. Keep the conversation to about 5 – 7 minutes, and set a meeting (online or offline) to continue the conversation and not miss out on any great connections. If you are networking at an online event, keeping the conversation short allows others in your smaller networking groups to participate in the networking.
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 meet and who meets us. Because of this, it is important to follow up with those we meet within 24 – 48 hours to stay top of mind with them. The best follow-up is via phone call. Use of email follow-up is fine if that’s the best way to contact the other person.