Face-to-face interactions have always been an essential component of a successful business. In the past, it was unheard of for people to get into business with individuals they had never met in person before. The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled everyone to change the way they interact and communicate with each other, not only in a personal context, but a professional one as well.Social distancing and fears of contracting the virus are affecting everyone’s ability to build, strengthen, and sustain human relationships like before. This doesn’t mean it’s the end of professional network development as we know it, or that business relationships are confined to the people we already know. The solution, for now at least, is virtual interaction.
The Era Of Virtual Networking
Digital communication apps such as Brosix, Zoom, Whereby, Slack, WhatsApp Businessand FaceTimeare among popular technologies you may have already adopted, or used with greater frequency, to communicate with employees, colleagues, business partners and in some cases, customers and clients. They’re also fantastic for strengthening new business connections remotely.
Now more than ever, forging fresh partnerships and new relationships are business-critical, as companies across the board come to rely on each other for support and the sharing of ideas in order to successfully navigate, and survive, business as “unusual”.
Here are 5 ways to virtually network successfully and potentially open new doors of possibility beyond the pandemic.
- Virtual Happy Hours
Ironically, virtual networking can sometimes foster strong ties even faster than face-to-face interactions. Virtual happy hours are a fantastic new way to network. This is where groups of people gather online through platforms like Zoom and Houseparty with a drink in hand to relax, chat, talk shop, share ideas and more. Access can be granted to anyone who may be interested in being part of the experience via a URL link or shared connection, making virtual happy hours a useful space to network and build connections in a relaxed setting.
- Virtual Conferences
With several global conferences being cancelled, virtual ones have become the new go-to. They allow remote participants from any part of the planet to access live onsite meetings and events from their computers and smartphones. Same topics of discussion, more comfortable setting! Consider emailing hosts and speakers after the event to ask questions or offer feedback. Ask if they would be willing to speak with you briefly to brainstorm new ideas in the space you are targeting. Take a risk and put yourself out there – the worst that can happen is that they will say no.
Over 660 million professionals use LinkedIn to cultivate their careers and new business networks. LinkedIn is all about building strategic relationships. It allows you to identify potential connections through existing ones, the industry in which you operate, and by joining groups. Once new connections have been made, opportunities fordirect messaging and conversation exist, which you can then decide to shift into the real-world if you feel comfortable.
As the platform is all about professionalism, users are particular about who they choose to add to their network. Ensure that your profile is well-established with pertinent information about who you are, your professional interests and endeavors, and upload a profile picture that coincides with the image of the types of people you’re hoping to connect with and who you hope will choose to connect with you. Consider using LinkedIn Publishing to start a blog where you share thoughts and ideas on a topic of interest. It will establish you as a thought leader and generate conversation with others through the comments, which is a fantastic forum for new relationship building.
- Rekindle Old Connections
Your email address book is probably full of connections that you aren’t utilizing to your advantage, such as classmates from college or old colleagues. Because these relationships have already been formed, send them emails to reconnect and you may discover opportunities to work together on new projects or that your skill set is needed by their company to support its expansion plans.
- Company Newsletters
Although these can feel like spam at times, company newsletters are where businesses share important information that may be of interest to you, such as dates for their next virtual open conference which you can be a part of. There are also opportunities to build relationships that result in joint digital conferences in the future, where you both can remotely serve as key-note speakers to hundreds of like-minded professionals, thus extending your network of connections. Sign up to a few company newsletters and you might be pleasantly surprised by the rewards you reap.
MSI Is Here To Help
Connecting virtually is great in times like these, but if individuals are comfortable, and you live in an area where cafes and restaurants are open, it is always good to ask if they would feel comfortable with an in-person meeting. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same applies to digital connections. Take time to nurture these relationships and soon you will have built an entirely new network of contacts with which to grow yourself professionally.
We hope this article was able to shed some light on how to continue to grow your network in these difficult times. Visit our website or contact us with any questions you may have!