Getting The Most Out Of Online Networking
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From webinars to virtual business shows, Twitter hours to web hosted speed networking, making new contacts and schmoozing online has been around for a while. But it seems now, more than ever, we are relying on it as part of our new daily norm, and to be honest, it’s not that easy!
OK, so showing up, saying hello and listening to what everyone else has to say isn’t that hard … but really making the most of it and getting as much from online networking as you would from meeting someone face to face is definitely a bit trickier.
As experienced remote workers, we’ve been attending these types of events for years. Let us share with you our top tips for making the most of them:
First off, you need to find the right event/s to attend. The same as you would for an ‘in person event’, consider what you can give and what you will get out of it. Is the audience right for you? Who do you want to work with, support or develop new relationships with? Whether you’re at home; a local sports hall; or a conference centre, your time is just as valuable – show up to the right event for YOU.
Once you’ve discovered your ideal Twitter hour or online lunch networking group, find out as much as you can before you attend. What subjects do they discuss? What’s the format of the event? Before you join, use the information you find out to think about some questions and useful content you can share. That way, not only will you add real value, you will also save time allowing you to focus on speaking with and learning more about the other members.
Prep’ done! Let’s talk about ‘being in the room’.
The best piece of advice we can give you for online networking is to constantly visualise ‘being in the room’. With the safety and comfort of being behind your laptop screen, it can be easy to shrink into the background and just watch the events unfold in front of you. It can be daunting wondering what to say, how to say it and even when. Imagining you’re in the room with everyone, sipping a drink, wandering round and poking your face in to say hello and introduce yourself, suddenly makes it much easier. If you were there, chatting away, what would you say? You would ask them about their business wouldn’t you! You’d find out more, ask probing questions, and conversations would flow onto various subjects – business and personal. From there, you can network as you usually would. Show an interest, see if you can help each other, find out as much as you can for a short period, then move on to find out more about the next person. Networking!
Beware the danger trap – Don’t just shout and run!
It’s easy to mistake shouting and leaving as ‘getting involved’. For example, you’re attending a virtual business show and have done all your prep’. You’ve spent ages working out what you want to say and have created a few posts ready. It’s very likely that all those posts talk about you, your business, what you have to offer, why I should use you etc. and so on… That’s great, and of course will be needed, but it’s extremely important to think about timing and engagement. If you were ‘in the room’ and someone came to your stand, would you turn to them, quickly highlight your services and then just as quickly turn away again saying nothing more? Of course not! You would say ‘hi’, introduce yourself, ask them about themselves and what they do. Apply the same logic here. Don’t go ‘into the room’ shout your name and leave again. It will have the same effect as if you had walked into a face to face meeting. You might cause a stir initially, but no one will pay much notice after that.
Your personal brand, business brand and how you come across are also important to consider. Again, continue to use the ‘being in the room’ trick. Just because you’re online, doesn’t mean you should start acting like you’re on Facebook or a family WhatsApp group! Remember that you’re still representing your company, and you want to make the best impression possible (much harder without the luxury of body language I know). Try to strike a nice balance between professional and friendly. Nothing stand-offish, and definitely not too familiar – even if you know someone very well, others won’t know that and a few eyebrows might be raised! At all times, imagine you’re standing in front of the person you’re talking to and respond as you would normally. Be open, helpful and genuine. Try to help as many people as possible, showing your worth and adding real value to the event.
Finally, once the speed networking, webinar (or whatever it is!) has ended, remember to progress any key contacts or developing relationships outside of the event. Follow up in the same way as you would if you had met them in person and taken their business card. Remember – all the best business is done once the event has finished.
We hope you’re found this blog useful. We run our own weekly networking hour over on Twitter between 8-9pm on a Wednesday evening. Please come along @SMESupportHour #SMESupportHour.
If you have any questions about online networking or would like to chat, please get in touch anytime! We look forward to hearing from you: email@example.com | 01903 688789