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Networking Online in a Lockdown Environment

Since we went into lockdown in the UK in March, a number of networking organisations quickly adapted their meetings and moved online. This has given many business owners the opportunity to try networking groups that were not necessarily in their geographical area or maybe were being held at more appropriate times when they were able to attend.

Key Learnings

I am a member of BforB in Bury and being part of this group, has allowed me to virtually visit other BforB meetings in the area (obviously where the seat is not taken). Also, there has not been the need to travel and therefore, possibly more networking meetings can be added in the diary.

One of my key learnings has been the need to REALLY understand what your objectives from attending these meetings are and those attendees that you would REALLY like a 121 with.  This is still the same with face to face networking, however the temptation with online is to attend every one that comes up in your news feed.  I was attending so many meetings in the first few weeks but I soon realised I needed to get a real focus on what I wanted and those I really needed to attend.

Another key learning for face to face and online networking meetings, is the need to focus on attending the right type of networking meetings, understand what the objective of attending the meeting is and what type of contacts you want to connect with.  Doing this research beforehand really focuses your mind on making sure you get something out of the meeting and making the right connections.  It is then important after the meeting to review your objectives and make sure they were achieved and review if they were not.  It could be the group was not the right fit for you and your business.

Benefits and Opportunities

One of the key benefits I have found from online networking is the efficient way that 121’s can be organised and the opportunity to set these up later that week or even the following day. In the face to face world, we would sometimes find it difficult to get a space in our diary, as you had to build in travel time each side and in addition, there would be travel costs. 121’s have been much easier to organise with the ability to have an introductory online chat first and then see if there is a useful business connection before organising (when permittable) a face to face meeting as I do think a face to face meeting is still important and valid.  However, the need to meet in person allows you to build that further trust in each other and hopefully discuss in more detail about your business.  As with anything in life, we all need that face to face human interaction.

Follow-ups in the future, when the lockdown is eased, will then form a face to face conversation but I think a Zoom or Teams Call is a great start to a business relationship.   There are of course a number of other good communication tools like Slack.

Format of Meetings

There have been many different formats of meetings, from following the traditional 60 seconds from each attendee to moving to individual ‘rooms’. 

Some of the meetings I have enjoyed the most are where you are split in to break out rooms.  I have had some real quality conversation with 3 or 4 other people and a chance to be focused on how we could support each other.  For me personally, this has led to follow up 121’s online.   

The most important point to remember from any networking meeting is, what is your objective for attending and what do you hope to get out of attending.  This is true for online and face to face.

60 seconds

Having 60 seconds (or 45 seconds depending on the group) that is clear is imperative.  I have shifted my focus from talking about what my business offering is to what is the benefit to the potential client. How does my business help with their growth or making things more efficient?  Also, be clear in your 60 seconds around what sort of businesses you are looking to connect with.  “I am looking to connect with XYJ business in XYZ town or city. “

This all goes back to your ideal client and it is quite easy to say, ‘I can help anyone’. But from my experience this doesn’t help you achieve new contacts.

The Future of Meetings

I can see the benefit of both types of meetings, online and face to face.  Could this be a shift towards a hybrid of both, where one week the group meets online and maybe then meets once a month for a face to face meeting?  

How Have You Found It?

Online has bought new ways of thinking and networking but some of the principles of researching your audience beforehand and having an effective 60 seconds is still really important.   The next few months are going to be interesting as we come out of lockdown and networking groups move back to face to face and whether they will be a new hybrid of meetings

How has online networking been for your business? Have you managed to secure any new clients?  How have you found meeting and greeting?

About AJ Support

AJ Support works with businesses to help them look at their end to end processes and optimisation of processes.  We also work with Software suppliers to ensure the best system is recommended for your business.

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