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This article was written by Elizabeth Harris, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble is freelance matching platform leading the future of work. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right freelancers for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT will help you hire the freelancers you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of freelance experts ready to work for you.
Between video calls, masks, and conversations six-feet apart, the way we interact with each other has changed this year. In a matter of months, millions of people have moved to doing business online, and with the cancellation of face-to-face meetings, events and conferences, the way we network has changed too.
Restrictions and regulations introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19 have dramatically reduced the number of chance meetings and opportunities to catch up with old contacts. Instead, many of us are now navigating the world of remote networking.
While remote networking is great on paper, it’s not without its challenges. For starters, you have to prepare yourself for a meeting without background noise or ambience. That means working on your video call technique, as well as your ice breakers to avoid awkwardness. It also means taking the first step to connect with new people as they probably won’t come to you.
Here are six tips for networking remotely so you can build valuable connections, even when you’re staying at home.
1. Look at the options available to you.
Before the pandemic, most networking took place face-to-face. With the introduction of new restrictions, this has become a lot more difficult. If you’re looking to expand your network and make new connections, you’ll need to look at the options available to you in our new remote working world.
Probably the most popular option is video calls. The number of people using video calling to keep in touch in 2020 has shot up compared to last year. This means that most people have learnt how to video call and should be confident using it by now. You can have a fairly easy conversation over video call, which is a major plus for networking.
At the same time, there are other options available, too. You could agree on a time to message one another using an instant messaging app. Or you could sign up to remote networking events, specifically designed to help you meet people in your industry.
If you live in the same city and it’s safe to do so, you might choose to have a socially distanced meeting outside. Walking meetings can help you get out of the house and move your body while flexing your networking muscles.
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2. Be flexible with your schedule.
If you’re arranging to meet someone remotely or in a socially distanced way, it’s a good idea to work around their lives. Find out when they have time in their schedule and make arrangements that are convenient for them. In short, make it as easy as possible for them to meet you.
With many families now juggling full-time care responsibilities as well as work, time constraints have become even more extreme. Give people time to get back to you, cut them slack if they’re late for your meeting and thank them for giving up a slice of their day to talk to you.
Making a good first impression is crucial in any networking scenario and this rule still applies for remote networking. Take responsibility for organizing the meeting and sending them an invite. Send a follow-up and be prepared to put in the work to keep the connection alive. These extra steps will help you build a positive relationship from the get-go and could bring you more success down the line.
3. Prepare like it’s a face-to-face meeting.
By now, many of us are familiar with the ins and outs of video calling but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an extra effort when networking. This is not the time to be wearing sweatpants or be calling in from bed. If you treat your remote meeting like an in-person meeting, it will be easier to get your head in the game.
At the same time, it’s also a good idea to research the person you’re going to be meeting ahead of time. Even if you know the organization, take another look at the website and their social media to see what has changed since the start of the pandemic. With many businesses pivoting to respond to the challenges of 2020, you might find that an organization you thought you knew has changed a lot.
You can also prepare your questions ahead of time. This will help to make sure that the focus is on the other person and not on yourself. You are there to learn more about them and what they do so plan five to 10 questions that make the most of this opportunity. Even if you don’t use them, it’s helpful to have prompts in mind in case conversation runs dry.
4. Utilize social media.
As well as networking via video call, there’s also a huge opportunity to use social media for remote networking. Now is the time to update the social media profiles you have neglected, add new content and get in touch with followers or connections.
Social media is an ideal pandemic networking tool. It’s casual, quick and user-friendly. You can share links to interesting content or comment on events that are relevant to your industry. It’s also a chance to put a personal spin on your networking by centering on humor or the things that are important to you, showing the person behind the business profile.
Keeping up your social media presence, even in a small way, can be a big boost to your networking efforts. It’s all about keeping your name in people’s minds to increase the chances that you’re the one they contact when a new opportunity comes up.
5. Network within your organization.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to network within your organization too. With remote working, there aren’t the same opportunities to chat in the elevator or the corridor. It’s easy to feel isolated from your colleagues and the people you’d otherwise interact with on an ordinary day.
With many organizations shifting their structure, creating new roles and slimming down other departments, it’s important to have your name in the ring. Make an effort to connect with people within your organization, as well as outside. You might choose to do a video call to catch up. Otherwise, simply sending an email or connecting on social media can also be a good way to reconnect.
6. Focus on the shared experience.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the ultimate leveler. Everyone has been touched by this event in some way. This is a great area of common ground between you and the person you’re hoping to network with.
As well as being the ultimate icebreaker, the pandemic has also shifted people’s priorities, providing the opportunity to reevaluate what we want from our lives. Networking is all about sharing, looking at what you can offer other people and what they can offer you. It seems like now people are especially open to new opportunities and connections, so make the most of it!
Approach any networking opportunity as a chance to make a long-term investment in the relationship. It’s not about what you can get from it now. It is a chance to meet someone new, build up existing relationships and see where it leads.
In the era of Covid-19, everything is a bit more uncertain but the way people connect is still the same. Sure, we’re doing it remotely, via screens instead of face-to-face, but on the other side of that screen there is a person. They have their own ambitions, fears and feelings. Remember that and you won’t go wrong.
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