Networking today looks different than it once did. Virtual networking has become the norm for making connections. Be this as it may, it doesn’t mean you can’t still network. No matter how it’s done, networking is still, first and foremost, about building relationships.
Just like a friendship, a professional relationship requires thoughtful nurturing to grow. When it comes to virtual networking, be a student of best-practices, but don’t get caught up in the technology and tools. Put people come before platforms.
When put first, people will connect with those they know, like, and trust. Creating win-win relationships that are built on trust, truth, and care go a long way. Opening up to new ways of working and connecting with people in a digital environment, slowing down, and leading with care and value will resonate with the people you want to connect with.
Determine Your Goals
To make the most of virtual networking, start by determining your networking goals and figure out how you can accomplish them digitally. For example, if you want to do more public speaking, consider joining an online Toastmasters club. Or invite a friend with expertise in public speaking to a Zoom call to share advice. A tip to keep in mind – People are generally more willing to be asked for advice than to have their brain picked. If you don’t know anyone in your own network who is experienced with public speaking, consider asking someone else in your network, whom you’ve built a solid relationship with, if they know someone they can introduce you to.
Next, decide what your baseline approach to virtual networking will be. Will it be a weekly Zoom meeting with 3 – 5 of your closest contacts? A monthly or quarterly virtual coffee with key people you want to stay connected with? Or perhaps serving as a connector by thinking about people you know whom you can introduce to one another?
With all this in mind, do your best to avoid one-time reach outs. Just like an in-person coffee, make sure you follow-up on any homework items from the conversation.
Build a Solid Foundation First
Pace is equally important. Just because the digital environment moves fast doesn’t mean that you should. Making a request too soon is a networking turnoff. Build a solid relationship foundation fist. Something that can help with this, is looking for something you hold in common with the other person. These commonalities can serve as meaningful conversation starters and sources of familiarity.
The next point I would like to make is to not neglect the fine details of the virtual networking environment. Even though the backdrop of a digital space differs from that of a coffee shop or banquet hall, still dress as you would for an in-person meeting or event to establish a professional mindset and demeanor during virtual meetings.
Think about sound quality and connectivity and take note of your background. Your workspace tells people about you. Make sure it’s sending the message you want.
All in all, while networking may look different than it once did, if you put people first, you can’t go too wrong. no matter the networking surroundings.