So, how do you network safely and effectively during these unprecedented times when most professionals are working from home? In this post, we'll review five tips on networking during COVID, so that you can keep building relationships.
How to Network During COVID
1. Utilize Video CallsIf you haven’t used video conferencing tools often or at all, get acquainted with popular tools so that you're prepared. Schedule meetings with professionals on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or other video conferencing tools. By doing so, you'll feel like you’re networking in person, while staying home and ensuring social distancing. To make the most out of a virtual networking opportunity, dress professionally, eliminate distractions, and test your camera in advance. Prepare for a business meeting via video conference the same way you would prepare for an in-person meeting.
2. Find Business Networking Events OnlineThe pandemic has changed the way we live our lives and made things like online networking the norm. You may be surprised to learn how many in-person networking events have now been turned into online events. In fact, you can find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter groups, in addition to other social media platforms. On these platforms, you can easily connect to professionals in your industry or those with similar interests. If you belong to a professional organization, don’t forget to check their emails, newsletters, and websites for online networking options.
3. Follow Up Via Email or PhoneAny time you network virtually (or safely face to face), be sure to follow up. After you meet someone that you believe could benefit your small business in some way, send them a quick email. Let them know it was nice to meet them and suggest a next step such as scheduling another meeting. You can also call them if you feel more comfortable speaking on the phone instead of conversing over email. Regardless of if you call or send an email, follow up promptly while the conversation is still fresh in their mind.
4. Be PatientRemember that the pandemic has changed everyone’s lives. Some of the people you may be networking with may have more on their plates than they did pre-COVID. Maybe they have to homeschool their children while working. Or perhaps they’ve taken on additional responsibilities or a second job. By realizing this and being patient, you can avoid a great deal of disappointment. Remember that just because someone doesn’t respond immediately, it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in connecting. It's possible that you'll need to follow up again in order to get a response!
5. Make the Most of LinkedInWhile LinkedIn is always a valuable resource, it’s particularly useful during COVID-19. At its core, LinkedIn is a professional networking and career development website. To date, there are over 722 million members in more than 200 countries. If you already have a profile, look for ways to spruce it up and present yourself in a more attractive way. Here are some ways you can successfully do this:
- Add a professional photo
- Write a compelling about section
- Detail your professional experience
- List your skills and certifications
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for recommendations.
Who Can You Network with During COVID-19?There are numerous individuals and organizations that you should consider when you network, including:
- Industry Professionals: An important business networking tips to remember is that you shouldn't view others in your industry as competitors. Instead, view them as individuals that you can learn from and potentially partner with in the future.
- Vendors: Chances are your business will need new vendors in the future to reduce issues and improve your operations. You may want to network with multiple vendors who provide the same product or service so you can easily compare them.
- Referral Sources: Referral can do wonders for your business. That’s why it’s a good idea to connect with those who you believe may introduce you to potential customers. Offer them an incentive for referring you.
- New Employees: If you’re hiring during the pandemic, networking can help you land some great new employees. You may meet someone who knows someone with the skills and experience you need to succeed.