Networking: Virtually

22 Dec, 2020

Love it or hate it, networking is an important aspect for any business and like many things this year, COVID-19 put a stop to the traditional networking events.  Find out how our Business Development Specialist Stacey Humm got on with virtual networking this year…

Anyone who knows me knows that I love networking.  It hasn’t always been that way but having spent the last 15 years or so doing it, I can definitely say that it is one of my favourite parts of my role.  I love meeting new people, finding out about people’s businesses and generally getting to know what is going on in different sectors.

So when COVID-19 struck and face to face networking (or face to face anything!) became a no no, I was worried that the element I loved most about my Business Development role had disappeared.  However, if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that the best things adapt, flex and change.  All of a sudden I was inundated with ‘virtual’ networking invitations, opportunities for ‘virtual’ coffee catch ups, ‘virtual’ huddles and webinars.  The list was endless.  As someone so used to face to face interaction, I was definitely unsure about how all this was going to work.  I’d used Teams and Zoom for formal meetings but somehow using it to network seemed counterintuitive to my feeling that networking needed to be in person in order to ‘connect’.

My first experience of a virtual networking meeting was a Circle 2 Success event hosted by the lovely Angela and Suzanne.  I was certainly nervous (more so than when meeting face to face).  But the meeting went really well and I really enjoyed it.  It was a well-run, co-ordinated affair.  A leader for the break out rooms gave the meeting structure and flow but without being overbearing.  I probably managed to introduce myself to more people in that meeting than I would have with a face to face meeting.

After that I virtually attended an event in Oxford.  This was highly unlikely to have happened pre-covid as it would have been tricky to justify the time to travel.   I met a whole new group of businesses that I previously would not have.

Since then I have attended some really well run events with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and BNI.  I’ve even turned my hand to hosting webinars for ISO Quality Services, something I never would have thought of doing before but really enjoyed.

I’ve learnt that there are so many positives to virtually networking:

  • I can now network all over the country without the usual travel/time constraints;
  • Virtual meeting structure forces me to interact with more people than I perhaps naturally would at a face to face meeting;
  • I also feel that you are more likely to listen virtually than you are face to face because the social etiquette of virtual conversations dictates that.
  • People are really opening up about how the pandemic is affecting them and I’ve had some positive, honest conversations with businesses.
  • I’m getting to grips more with virtual tech which is helping in other aspects of work life e.g confidence on screen
  • And, I’m not eating as many lunches, cakes and biscuits as I usually do at networking events!

So despite some comedy phrases that crop up on pretty much every meeting I’ve been in:

“You’re on mute”,

“I can’t seem to get my camera to work”.

“We can only see the top of your head”.

“Just trying to share my screen”.

“I’m just going to pop you in a breakout room”.

I’d highly recommend virtual networking for anyone that is feeling a bit sceptical or nervous.   I for one hope that virtual networking is here to stay and that it becomes part of the mix of business life when we all get back to ‘normal’ networking because if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that networking actually is all around.

See you in 2021 for more networking whether virtually or face to face!

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