After over a year of having to network online, face-to-face business networking functions and events are now possible again. But has this changed anything? And should you think about changing the way you approach networking?
Business networking makes up a crucial element of growing and established businesses, whether you are an employer or a “sole” trader. It involves getting the business known, finding new ways to market, meeting potential strategic partners and collaborators, and gaining guidance from others within the same sector.
Until COVID hit, standard networking formats involved face-to-face networking meet-ups. The meeting structure, place, and time may have varied, but it was very unusual to meet people online.
And then everything as we knew it changed.
Networking online turned into the only choice and each individual reacted to this new method in various ways. Some people enjoyed the potential and ease to test new groups, travel much further afield, and meet people they may have never been able to before. For others, they struggled with the personal aspects of not being able to meet face-to-face. And for a lot of people, the limitations involved in office space at home and broadband made networking online very difficult, and in some instances impossible.
A chance to review the way you network.
Even though networking is slowly returning to meetings in person, and it should be an easy task to revert back to the traditional ways of networking, the last 18 months have provided a chance to change the way we have done things in the past, and to make adaptations where necessary.
So if you are about to return to face-to-face networking, you may want to think about ways to make networking work smarter and harder for you. If you are in Surrey and are looking for a business network then see BNI Surrey.
What has remained the same…
Before we dive into the things that have changed, it is also worth noting that the foundation of business networking has stayed the same:
• Be Selective
There are only so many hours in a working week. Every minute that you spend in networking meetings is time spent or wasted on not doing other tasks, so make sure you choose carefully. Are the attendees to the meeting similar in outlook, type, and scale to you? Is the group made up of useful strategic partners and collaborators? Does the format of the meeting suit you?
Make sure you are clear when it comes to measuring the overall success of business networking. Does it involve introductions, conversions, sales, or leads? Regardless of what is involved make sure you have set measures and make sure it is matching up to your goals.
Make sure you have an idea of what you want out of the meeting. Are there particular people you would like to meet or are you interested in facilitating an introduction? What would you like to mention about your company? What are you searching for? Go through the list of attendees to pinpoint who you want to connect with.
• Follow Up
Well-planned networking will extend beyond your meeting. Follow up with introductions and 121s. If you didn’t get a chance to talk to a person on your list of targets, contact that person after the function or event.
What has changed…
In a nutshell, everything.
This unusual situation has paved the way for the opportunity to think, change, and review. Certain people have already radically changed how they conduct their business, while others have returned to their old ways.
Regardless of your current situation, you need to recognise and know what might have changed when it comes to other people and the way to respond to them.
For each person that is embracing or longing for the chance to return to normal, there are others that are apprehensive and nervous about the group and face-to-face events. Regardless of why they are anxious, it is going to impact the ways in which they interact. So you need to be mindful of these responses as they may differ from yours.
If you have anxiety about meeting people face-to-face, find ways to minimise these concerns. If you prefer not to have physical contact with a person, politely tell them. If you feel more secure when you wear your face mask, feel free to. And if you are comfortable with being mask-free and shaking hands, do not assume that this applies to everyone that you meet.