2020 has been a challenging year for most of us. In the midst of real struggle, I have also seen some real connections form between people this year. How do you do “networking” when in-person events are off the table?
Start from a place of giving
Think about what you have to offer that may be of value to someone else. That could be some time, a book review or recommendation, a summary of a great webinar you watched, a way to set your kids up for success in at home learning. Where can you be of service to someone else? It doesn’t have to be a huge burden, just a way to provide something to people you would be interested to meet at a networking event. Find a group and make an offer to help someone.
I have had the pleasure to make a real connection with a wonderful person during this pandemic, that I may have otherwise not met or formed a bond with, even had we been at an in-person event together. We both attended an online event where the speakers shared some great take away messages and they inspired me to post a message on LinkedIn offering to help people find their passion. One person reached out. She is amazing, has an interesting story and we have developed a relationship over the course of the last several months. It was my genuine offer to help someone go deeper with knowledge in an online forum that helped us form a relationship one on one. We have had several calls and it is my absolute pleasure to know her.
Great news for introverts, I have found that you don’t have to put yourself in large rooms to effectively connect with people. In fact, our current bans on large group get togethers can definitely feel more comfortable to the introverts among us. Find one person that you are interested in learning more about. Find a way to reach out to them and introduce yourself. Think about why you want to meet them, and tell them why they are someone worth meeting. When you are genuine about your connection request and can share something you admire or have in common with the other, requests are much more likely to be accepted. You can do this once a month or once a week or once a quarter or once this year.
When you think about growing your network, you don’t have to grow it by 10’s or 100’s of connections. Think about building an actual relationship with one person rather than exchanging business cards with 30 people that you will never be in touch with again.
Use what you have
Another approach to networking in 2020 is to re-establish connections with people you already know, but don’t stay in touch with often. Reach out to existing contacts to check in on them. See how they are doing and what their world looks like now. We often forget to nurture the network we have because we are focused on growing a network. This year is a great year to nurture the network you already have. You can also ask people that you already know well for strategic introductions to people you want to meet that may be connected to your network. We definitely have ready-made conversation starters with the pandemic, social injustice and other current news events. “How are you doing?” is a perfect start to a conversation to re-establish connection with dormant areas of your network.
Host Your Own “Networking” event
If you are more of an extrovert, you may favor hosting your own (choose the online video conferencing platform of your choice) party. Leveraging the tip above invite people from your established network to attend and encourage them to each bring one person you don’t know to join them. You can create a theme for your event, a topic question to discuss or make it more social and perhaps even play a game. Either way, you can get some time with your network and meet some new people and expand and grow your network without crowding into a physical location together.
While this year has had its share of challenges, lack of networking opportunities does not have to be one of them. I’m curious – what other ideas do you have for networking in 2020? Connect with me and let me know. www.linkedin.com/in/ridgelinenikkievans