During the pandemic, many of us got used to online and hybrid models of networking. Once an in-person social thing, there are many ways to make new business connections without leaving home.
Why is this important?
As an entrepreneur, your network of personal and professional contacts is one of the key factors to your brand’s success, especially in the pre-startup period. Fear not! In-person networking is no longer the only way. Here are 5 things to keep in mind to help you succeed with virtual networking.
1) Try a more casual approach
Many of us have made valuable connections through the tried-and-true “let’s grab a coffee” meeting. The good news is, you can still bring this casual, more personal approach to the virtual space. Here’s one idea: decide on a small number of clients or business contacts who can spend a few minutes speaking on their area of expertise. Open up this virtual session to a limited number of attendees, and encourage discussion afterwards.
2) Turn to your existing contacts
We tend to think of networking as a way to meet new people, but there might be a new business idea or a new connection to be made amongst people you already know. For example, why not host a virtual event together for your local business community? Or, if you know someone who is in a similar, complementary industry (but not a direct competitor), you can team up on social media to hold a fun and casual ask-me-anything (AMA) session about your brands.
3) Change your social media strategy
What social media channels are you using? Are they working for you, or against you? During the pandemic, many small businesses and brands became more involved in social media. Keep this momentum going! Get inspiration from those who have seen success (but don’t copy), or take training that incorporates the latest trends, news, and strategies – companies like Later offer free webinars and videos full of good social media advice for small business owners.
4) Reframe your networking perspective
Because virtual networking events don’t require event space, catering, and a huge budget, there are interesting opportunities available. You can extend your networking reach into different regions and even different countries. You may even be able to spearhead industry-specific networking events, whether it’s a small, informal information-sharing session between a handful of people, or a larger-scale, scheduled virtual event. Think of ways you can reach out and get to know people that you might not have been able to before.
5) Encourage pre- and post-event chat
If you’re holding a structured event, it can feel tempting for people to log in five minutes beforehand, and log off as soon as it’s over. After all, why wouldn’t they? Event attendees registered for a reason, so why not give them an opportunity to network, discuss the event, and share ideas? Investigate ways your virtual event can open chat to all attendees for some time before and/or after the event, and ensure you’re in there too forming relationships of your own.