Yes, You Can Network While Physical Distancing!
If you’re like me and usually have at least one event on your calendar each week where you can see people you know or meet new people, then the cancellation of all of them for the foreseeable future might have hit you hard. The chance to spend time with those in your inner circle or meet others and expand your network is critical for all professionals whether you're an entrepreneurs or work for an organization.
So can you still network? I say a resounding yes. You just need to shift you mindset.
What’s The Same?
Preparation is still important. You didn't go to in-person events or meetings without preparing and you shouldn't attend one online or phone without being prepared. Know why you are attending the event or talking to the person. Do your homework.
Networking is still all about building relationships whether you’re doing it in-person over coffee or remotely. Social niceties haven’t gone out the window and I would say are even more important now. We are all stressed to various degrees whether we recognize it or not so it's even more important to ask questions rather than jumping straight into business. As for what to ask, if your go-to question has always been how are you? I encourage you to change it. Ask something more pointed such as how are you coping with these changes or how have you been taking care of yourself?
It’s about giving rather than receiving. For any of you who have read my earlier posts about networking , you know that I talk about having a mindset of giving to be a successful networker. Even in today’s environment I always ask what I can do for the other person.
When you reach out to connect with someone on LinkedIn send a personal note. This a big pet peeve of mine. I want to know why the person is reaching out or I probably won’t accept. Do we have mutual connections, or belong to the same LinkedIn groups? Did they read one of my posts and find it interesting? Even if it’s because you’d like some company or industry information, be forthright.
Reaching out via LinkedIn is more acceptable than ever. If you were not someone who used the tool much before physical distancing, now is the perfect time to try it. Remember my point above about sharing why you want to connect if it's a new connection. If it's someone you are already connected to, why not use this time to learn about them or what they have been up to. Schedule that virtual coffee.
Has your favorite group gone virtual? Join in. Now that most organizations have become adept at using whatever online meeting tool they have chosen, they are running great events. Sometimes they take a large event and break it into multiple deliveries to smaller groups so people can share and talk. Other times they send you to breakout rooms during the session. Either way you usually have a chance to talk to some of the other participants in smaller groups.
While participating in online events and webinars, follow the chat. Many times I’ve found someone says something intriguing and I use that as an opportunity to reach out during the session or after, if I have the contact list, and learn more about them.
Now is the perfect time to attend events that are originating outside of your city of even state. I’ve “attended” events in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas just to name a few. I’ve met some amazing people who are now part of my network and am continuing the conversations with them.
How are you networking these days?