Taking the time to make new contacts is something we should all be doing. And as we increasingly rely on digital resources, both in the office and in our personal lives, there is a rising number of opportunities to grow your circle. Here’s our guide to networking in a virtual world.
If you think networking can only be achieved with face-to-face meetings, it’s time to change your mindset. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, entrepreneurs across the world had to work out how to network during a pandemic. Now, video calls, webinars, virtual conferences and social media groups are the norm for people who use networking as a business growth strategy.
Networking in a virtual world can seem intimidating, but once you know the tricks to get the most from your sessions, you’ll be able to socialise with confidence.
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10 tips on how to network virtually
1. Create an introduction
Although people often behave completely differently online compared to the real world, it’s good practice to apply the rules you’d use for networking in person when you contact people virtually. People always appreciate politeness and professionalism, so it’s best to introduce yourself traditionally if you’re unsure of the event etiquette.
To avoid coming unstuck, prepare an introduction to use on a video call, type it into a forum or paste into a chatbox. Tell people who you are, what you do and where you want to be in five years’ time. Then, you’ll help people start a conversation with you while coming across as approachable and interesting.
2. Prepare questions
From time to time, you may find it difficult to build up a rapport with someone. Let’s say you’re on a video call with a potential client, you’ve introduced yourself, but the session is falling flat, and you’re struggling to keep the conversation up. You can quickly avoid awkward silences by asking the other person a question.
Aim to create a list of questions to ask other people - they could be general or specific to the person if you have time to do some research beforehand. If you need a quick fix, try asking ‘why’, as it should get the other person talking and could start an interesting conversation.
3. Know your goal
You should always pursue a networking opportunity with an ultimate goal - even if your aim is simply to widen your business circle or learn more about a specific topic. You’re more likely to reach your target if you know what you want to achieve and keep your goal in mind as you connect with others and make decisions.
4. Do your research
You can attend a networking event from your bed and log out whenever you feel like it - but while these options are open to you, they’re not necessarily the best course of action. You would expect others to be punctual, professional and well-prepared for the session, so you should be too.
Make time to research the people you’ll connect with, memorise their names and get ready to engage in productive conversations. If you’re considering asking someone for a favour, be sure to establish a relationship with them first, rather than just sending over an email or social media message.
5. Have the right attitude
You’ll get the most from a networking session if you’re sociable, positive and genuinely interested in the people you meet. No one wants to spend time with someone who is grumpy, aggressive or standoffish, so make sure you present yourself as an attractive and approachable networking partner.
Also, try to avoid the temptation to criticise or moan - even if others agree and have already aired their grievances about something. You want people to leave with an image of you as a cooperative, successful and motivated individual.
6. Have your CV to hand
Depending on the type of networking event you join, you may meet people who would like to work with you in the future. Being able to show them your career history and previous successes quickly and easily will help things along.
Before you log into an online group, or initiate a conversation with someone, brush up your CV and make sure it clearly demonstrates your achievements.
7. Master video call best practices
Being able to manage and prepare for a video call has never been more important than it is now. Here are a few pointers to help you present yourself as a professional (and tech-literate) individual:
- Check your camera and microphone before you go on a video call to avoid embarrassing tech issues
- Sit in front of a window or invest in a high-quality light to illuminate your face
- Put your laptop or camera on a tripod, a stack of books or anything else you have to hand, so people don’t get an unfortunate view up your nostrils
- Choose an interesting background - people are getting bored of seeing plain walls, so showcase (a clean and tidy) part of your home if you can, and give people a sense of your personality
8. Consider time zones
Being able to connect with people from across the globe is one of the perks of digital networking. It’s easy to get carried away and organise virtual meet-ups with just a few clicks, but don’t forget to check time zones. Overlook this vital element, and your intended audience, client or business partner may not be able to take part.
9. Praise others
Online networking is about more than scheduling video calls and joining forums; you can build connections by engaging with other brands and entrepreneurs on social media. And by leaving a positive review for one of your favourite products, you not only make the business owner happy, but you also present yourself as a generous, tech-savvy person.
10. Connect people within your circle
If you expect others to put you in touch with relevant contacts, make sure you do the same for them. Perhaps you know two people who could collaborate, or maybe you’ve met someone who is the perfect fit for a job your friend is advertising.
It’s easy to focus on your own ambitions, but helping others is increasingly important in today’s world. Plus, you never know when the people you put in touch will be able to support you in return.
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The importance of networking for your franchise
Networking is an essential part of business growth - and often leads to opportunities you couldn’t have anticipated. For more ideas and inspiration when it comes to growing your business circle, see our guide on why networking is so important.
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Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©