Networking is perhaps one of the most valuable activities you could engage in if you are willing to grow your business, increase your sales for your enterprise, and ensure a wealthier professional future.
But ‘real networking’ is not always easy. If you add social distancing and a worldwide pandemic in the equation, all of a sudden, you might be tempted to pause meeting new valuable business contacts for an extended period of time.
In this article, we want to share with you five valuable and practical ways in which you can still enlarge your web of contacts, and get the most out of this digital world, even if we are stuck at home because of the pandemic. Ok, so here it goes!
Networking tip number 1:
LinkedIn Groups. Even if sometimes you can find many professional groups that are active also on Meetup or Facebook, of course, LinkedIn is your go-to place when it is time to meet new contacts in a selected field. Ironically, LinkedIn Groups are not as popular as you may think, making it a real gold-mine for valuable people that actually use it. They are very easy to navigate, and you may find literally many local and international groups divided by sector, nationality (in case you are an expat, like me!), or interest. Check them out, observe for some days what are the interactions and then start connecting with people.
Networking tip number 2:
Learn something new. Signing up for a new course can also be a great way to connect to other professionals that have similar interests. More and more courses are needing to go online, but it doesn’t always mean that you will be faced with boring hours staring at a screen.
Many courses are already finding more engaging ways to collaborate and make the experience more immersive (Virtual Reality) and interactive. Take a look around and give 1 or 2 courses at try, prices are very accessible, and you might be able to meet a very large number of people and actually share a learning experience with them, which is always uniting.
Networking tip number 3:
Start a blog or a podcast. We are literally living in the golden age of podcasts and content. Looking at social media, it would have seemed reasonable that our attention span would have continued to drop more and more every day. But in reality, a counter-intuitive trend of longer and longer 2-3 hour interviews on podcasts seems to dominate the world. The Timothy Ferriss show or the Joe Rogan Experience podcast is both 2+ hour-long interviews with some of the most interesting figures on the planet (you can also listen to them on YouTube), and they are both among the top most listened podcasts in the world.
So why don’t you start one for yourself? If buying a 15 dollars microphone on Amazon seems like a too challenging task, you could also start a blog. Linkedin also allows you to publish articles directly on the platform, so you could even start with 1 or 2 interviews a month with some experts in your field. It is a free advertisement for them, and anyone loves to be invited to share their opinion on an interview, so you will see how easy it is to find people.
Start a bit lower if you are just starting, and then you will be able to make your way up to bigger names as soon as you have interviewed 10-15 people.
You could do it on your new YouTube channel too!
Networking tip number 4:
Don’t forget your old contacts! Most people think that networking means constantly meeting new people and ‘enlarging’ your network of contacts, but it is absolutely meaningless that you constantly keep on meeting new people if you cannot keep in touch and deepen your relationship with those that you already know.
As a matter of fact, either you start to become creative and find more effective ways to keep in touch with your network or not actually network. You are simply making First Impressions to a bunch of people that you will no longer hear from.
So more than looking for new connections, grab your phonebook, and scroll through your contacts, and see who you should call to keep in touch, touch base, catch up. Nowadays, it feels so strange to receive phone calls with this excess of text messaging, so you could absolutely just think of calling out of the blue someone you haven’t heard from a long time (yes, it’s valid for family members too!). Check your LinkedIn contacts, your Facebook, and Twitter contacts.
Maybe you met someone just once a long time ago, and you feel uncomfortable connecting with them a year later. Well, don’t, just write or call them and resume that process.
Truth be told, you are much better off having closer contact with 20, 10 or even five people rather than just having met once at a networking cocktail event (remember those?) hundreds of people.
Less is More. Quality over Quantity. Rather than expanding your network, select a few, and get to know them better.
Networking tip number 5:
Change your angle. Often we approach new people for all the wrong reasons: We Request.
Way too frequently, we have a sort of opportunistic approach towards new people we meet. What’s in it for us? We might want to ask ourselves. But this is not the best way you want to introduce yourself to the other person. I personally had hundreds of encounters with people and spent the first thirty minutes just listening to all the great things they had achieved in their lives.
Train your listening skills. People like to talk about themselves. Try to listen carefully about what they are trying to tell you, especially about what they tell you between the lines, not just the pure content of their words. Ask yourself how you could help them first, or maybe you have a contact that they would benefit from knowing, an article or a book they might enjoy reading. In two words, Give First.
There is a law of reciprocity that truly exists, so focus on helping others first and trust me that you will receive results from many other unexpected places also, because all the people you will have helped will actively think on their own about how they could help you, and it could turn out to be a much-needed way that you were not even considering.
Even better though, forget about the previous paragraph and try to help unconditionally, do not wait or expect anything in return. Instead of thinking about who you could contact that could help you grow your sales, introduce you to your future employer or assist you in finding that investor you are so much striving to desperately find, try to do the opposite: see you could help first.
We are all in different stages in our lives, in our professional development, this means that there will always be someone in a different stage that could benefit from a small hand from you.
Don’t be selfish or too ego-oriented. Give first, and I guarantee you that many positive surprises will come your way.
I strongly suggest the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, a true Bible of connecting better and maintaining contacts with your network. Amazing read.