No Happy Hours? Here’s How To Network
Post Written By Maurice Harary, Forbes Councils Member
If you’re a professional in any level of business, you’ve likely acquired stacks of business cards from the myriad meetings and networking events you’ve attended. From trade shows to happy hours, when I look at the stacks of cards I’ve collected over the years, I like to remember that I shared a professional experience with that person. Whether the conversation went beyond the business card is another matter. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that few do.
While the pandemic has taken much from us, I’m not sure that many of us would have included networking among our list of to-be-missed activities. Yet, the pandemic has changed so much of our business interactions and social behaviors. Whether we realize it or not, those business card exchanges played an essential role in building our careers. So, it’s more important now than ever to not allow Covid-19 to keep you from networking. Rather, use this time to grow your network in valuable and meaningful ways — beyond a business card.
Participate with local institutions.
Your local chamber of commerce or small business organizations offer ample opportunity to connect with your area’s other local businesses. In fact, many of these organizations exist to connect business owners who share similar locales or interests. Additionally, they offer substantive ways to network with other members.
While Covid-19 means that a typical town-hall-style meeting is likely a ways away, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of connecting with like-minded business owners. There are online forums and councils that allow business owners like me and you to connect and share best practices. Think you’re alone in a strategic decision? Not likely. By joining a group of like-minded individuals, you will find that others are struggling with many of the same challenges you are facing. Sharing ways to overcome obstacles and helping one another succeed is why these forums exist in the first place.
In order to ensure you are joining a group that will benefit you, contact current members and ask them about activity at meetings and their overall level of satisfaction with the organization. This will increase the odds of finding a network that you are excited about!
Partner with another small business.
This suggestion requires you to be focused, creative and intentional. Think of a partnership as an opportunity to think outside the box. Is there a local organization with a similar mission statement to yours? A neighbor with a complementary product offering? A struggling vendor? Whatever or whoever it may be, creating a partnership with another small business will not only extend your reach but also open your eyes (and pockets) to more opportunities.
Should you find an organization that looks desirable, don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Your next step is to reach out to the CEO or business owner (this is where you need to remember how to start conversations from the days of pre-Covid-19 networking events).
Begin starting the conversation by including the intended goals that you expect from partnering. Ensure you outline how this partnership will be mutually beneficial for your businesses. Consider opportunities where you can cross-promote. It could be as simple as promoting shared messages on social media, writing features in monthly newsletters or linking to company pages in your blogs. Share a message that resonates and allows conversations to open up to your communities.
Attend Zoom meetings.
Yes, “Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. Company meetings, sales presentations, conferences, etc. are all a part of our daily to-do lists in growing our businesses. But, this suggestion is different. And, now that you have had daily practice with Zoom, it offers networking possibilities on a worldly level.
You know the line, “It’s five o’clock somewhere”? Well, that is exactly the case here. Zoom networking opportunities are available at any time of the day — all over the world. There are meetings for every diverse, niche interest where you can expand your network to people who share the same interests as you.
A well-run meeting will offer the opportunity for you and other members to share your experiences, ask questions and develop conversations. Beyond the meeting, connect with individual members who you find engaging and take the conversation further via LinkedIn or, yes, another Zoom meeting.
Engage with other professionals.
LinkedIn has over 740 million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. That’s 740 million people who have ideas, experiences and stories that can be relatable to you and your business. Businesses operate differently across the world, but that does not mean you cannot learn from them. Maybe you can connect with a business that has a model similar to yours in another country. How have they fared through the pandemic? Are there any learnings you can take from your conversations?
Though this past year has been difficult, it should not prevent you from continuing to network. If your business has been successful through the pandemic, you have the opportunity to share wisdom with others who can learn from your story. Those who know the power of networking recognize it takes initiative. So, recognize that you have a story to share and that there is always something to learn from others’ stories.
Forbes Article Link: No Happy Hours? Here’s How to Network