The last 18 months has impacted society greatly. Today’s world has simultaneously opened up a plethora of doors, whilst also abruptly shutting them. One area in business that has been hugely affected has been networking.

During the pandemic networking became a necessity rather than an option. We were all told to work from home and as a result meeting new business contacts became almost impossible. Therefore we relied heavily on online networking opportunities, which after a few months into Covid became sometimes all too regular. Zoom fatigue set in quickly, but the importance of networking remained high. The pandemic showed us how humans need to connect with others.

As we inch our way back into the real world, networking needs to be evaluated again so we can develop (or re-develop if Zoom didn’t work for you over lockdown) our business communities again. Or, if you’re anything like us, meet face to face those you’ve met countless times through online events. There’s something about seeing someone across a table that instils a higher degree of trust and helps build meaningful connections. Connections which businesses can rely heavily upon once established and nurtured.

According to Professor Gregory Whitwell: “Covid-19 had shattered global networking as we once knew it. However this does not mean effective networking is any less important – in fact the opposite is true. Instead we must create an imperative for a new mode of networking.

If anything, the pandemic has highlighted our desire for authentic human connection. In lieu of the traditional ‘water cooler’ conversations with colleagues or clients, we must find new, creative ways to keep our global networks active while working virtually.”

In light of Whitwell’s statement, here are our top 9 tips for networking post Covd-19.

  1. Be authentic – The key to creating meaningful connections is by making your relationship relational rather than transactional. Be you, talk about your experiences and how the last year has been. Show emotion and be your true, authentic self.
  2. Network in different ways – During the pandemic we changed how we networked through embracing the digital world. However, now it’s time to re-engage with face to face meetings, coffee meetings, conferences – you name it. But here’s the thing, everyone will be doing the same. So how do you stand out and not get forgotten amongst all the new (and old faces)? Send links to thoughtful articles which relate to your contact’s business or pain points, send a handwritten note, pick up the phone and invite them for a drink. This has everything to do with being authentic, personable and understanding. Help them remember who you are by being memorable.
  3. Bring value – Turning up is half the job, but the other half is to offer value to those you meet. Make your interactions about how you can help others and who you can introduce them to. Understand their pain points and see if there’s anything or anyone you know who may be able to help them. This is the first step to creating a purposeful and meaningful relationship that is relational rather than transactional. (Something we mentioned in our first point).
  4. Reach out to pre-Covid contacts – Remember those you spoke to before we entered the pandemic, get back in touch with them to see how business is going. They may have forgotten about you and you never know where the conversation may lead to. Delve through your inbox and CRM system to remind yourself who your leads were pre-Covid and try and re-open up these conversations.
  5. Don’t forget online opportunities – Have you had a positive result from attending a virtual event over the last 18 months? If so, then why would you put all your eggs back into ‘real’ events and networking opportunities? Research what’s coming up and if it’s an event that has worked for you then make sure it stays in the diary. The next year may be full of exciting face to face events, but we know how well online events have also worked.
  6. Expand borders – It’s clear that we all met new connections outside of the area we normally concentrate our business in. The digital world has opened up a vast market that we didn’t originally have access to. This is something we need to keep nurturing and focusing our time on if it has yielded positive results. The idea isn’t to ‘go back’ to our networking roots, but to build upon them and forge new ways of doing business.
  7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint – Developing key business contacts take time, just like any normal friendship. Online events enabled us to connect and get to the point a lot quicker than at face to face events, and whilst they allowed us to network largely without boundaries they did take away that connection you can’t achieve through a screen. Real events are going to take time so you should be prepared to attend a number of events before assessing If they are working for you. Time is of the essence, but in the slow burner kind of way!
  8. Time is money – Lastly, there will inevitably be a wave of new events and networking opportunities available to you over the summer and autumn. Whilst you could say yes to every invitation, make sure you’ve done your research and know who may be going. Does the event attract those you would like to connect and work with? Will you learn something valuable you can implement into your business? Make sure you know what to expect so you don’t waste your time, which could be better spent elsewhere.

It’s clear that the scope of meet ups has evolved and we can’t just ‘go back’ to life as we knew it. Technology has rapidly advanced to enable us to carry on and with that we’ve learnt how to adapt and embrace a new way of life. By varying how you meet and connect and making sure you’re only spending time on events which can really make a difference to your business you will find those meaningful connections and hopefully grow your business as a result of them.

Good Luck!

To find out more about how I may be able to help your Norfolk business thrive then please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01603 559590 or email markwilliams@actioncoach.com – you can also get in touch through my contact form here. If you’d like to know a little more about who I am, what I do and how I help then click here.