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Networking in the new normal

How to blend virtual and face to face networking for maximum results

The last 12 months have seen a seismic shift in how we business network. Gone went the warm, friendly handshakes and exchange of genuine smiles to be replaced by ‘at home’ relaxed vibes (including pets, children and slippers!) and an ability to get a full day’s work done around your networking events. While face to face interactions have a special kind of magic that we’re thrilled to see beginning to return, networking digitally is definitely a trend that’s here to stay. So, if you thought the days of hearing ‘Dave, you’re on mute’ were almost over, think again! Savvy networkers are blending both styles to get maximum impact from their networking and you can too – just follow our top tips below.

#1 Use virtual networks to begin new professional relationships

LinkedIn is one of the best digital networking tools you can have in your armoury. If you want to grow your network, do some research first on LinkedIn and find out what mutual connections you already have. Getting an online introduction from a mutual contact is much more likely to yield results. Plus, already being ‘digitally acquainted’ will make taking to an in-person meet up much easier.

#2 Deepen professional relationships in person

It is hard to build a meaningful relationship online only. The type of relationship in which someone would be willing to go out of their way to help you requires a certain amount of depth which can only really be achieved in person. Plan in time to network face to face with those connections who are most valuable to you as referrers and introducers. In a world where so much is going to be online going forward, making an effort to attend networking events that offer you the chance to build relationships with key connections is going to make you stand out. 

#3 Expand your network anywhere online

One of the biggest advantages of online networking is the lack of travel (bedroom to office is 12 steps!). That’s great for keeping costs and time under control but it also means that you aren’t limited geographically. Many savvy networkers are using online networking to find potential clients and business connections they otherwise would not have met at ‘in-person’ events because they are based too far apart (even internationally). The wider the net you spread, the more fish you catch – just saying!

#4 Maximise interaction when in person

It’s much harder to interact with fellow networkers online. There’s a lack of eye contact, body language, asides and chats over a coffee. So, when you are face to face with a group of potentially influential connections, make the most of it! If you have an opportunity to present make sure it’s got lots of interaction and time for discussion. Make sure you mingle and speak to as many people as you can. It’s easier to make an impression in person so don’t squander that opportunity.

#5 Use digital platforms to establish your authority in your field

The online world vastly expands the number of platforms where your voice can be heard, making it easier to build your reputation as an authority in your field. Seek out opportunities to write guest blogs, contribute to forums or even feature on a podcasts. Building credibility is not a new strategy but with lockdown much of the focus of this shifted to online platforms.

#6 Showcase your personality in person

It’s easier to show off your personality – and get people to buy into it – when you meet in person. You don’t have to be a natural extrovert to do this, just make sure you make the most of the time you have in the room. Listen carefully, contribute generously to conversation and share your knowledge and experience with the group so they come away with a really positive impression of you. 

#7 Blend your one-to-one’s

One of the big bonuses of digital networking is that we can have more one-to-one or insight meetings to really help cement and build those relationships. Being able to do these via online platforms such as Zoom or Teams means they don’t ‘eat’ into your working day quite as much and it’s easier to keep in touch with people regularly. However, don’t rely on digital solely for your one-to-one or insight meetings. Make time to meet up with key connections in person. There’s so much that can be shared over a coffee in person that just doesn’t translate online.

How are you embracing networking post-lockdown? Are you desperate to get back to face to face meetings or do you believe online is the only way forward? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how the networking landscape has changed and how to get the most out of professional business networking moving forward. 

Want to learn more about networking? Have a look at some of our other great resources:

Make 2021 the year you get more out of networking

The psychology of successful networking

The Secrets of Successful Networking

The 7 Traits of Successful Networkers

Opendoorz is unlike any other networking group; in fact we prefer to see ourselves as a professional business network. We help you build a trusted network of introducers, strategic partners, suppliers, mentors and friends, offering expert guidance, inspiration and a dose of laughter and fun along the way. With groups across Oxfordshire and Berkshire, why not found out more? https://opendoorz.biz/networking-events-oxfordshire/

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