The hot topic on everyone’s mind at the moment (unless you’re in the US and then it’s pretty evenly split between politics and germs). I almost hate to join the fray and discuss it, but with so many events being cancelled, and travel restrictions being enacted, I wanted to add some suggestions for how to continue networking during this time, so that you don’t lose momentum on your relationship building efforts.
For some of us, travel and events still move forward. Travel guidance varies – it depends on your destination and the size of the gathering. Common sense and good hygiene are essential, and for our group, we’ll be instituting what we’re fondly referring to as “Operation Fist Bump” at our upcoming Annual Conference (which may be further downgraded to “Operation Wave Hello.”
However, we live in an age where technology enables us to keep in touch without having to come into physical contact. So if you are either in a region that is locked down due to the virus’ outbreak, or you are taking precautions, there are still some things you can do to continue your relationship-building plans without risking your health.
- Set up meetings using Zoom or Skype: It can be tempting to either straight up cancel your travel/meetings/conferences, or replace them with a phone call, but instead, substitute them with a video call. It’s not exactly the same as if you were in a room together, but it allows you to connect in a stronger way than only a phone call. Also, it’s a decent substitute while you wait for the health crisis to abate and can begin to resume your travel and meetings again. You get the benefit of seeing someone’s face and body language, while still remaining separated by a screen.
- Join conferences the same way: If some of the conferences you were scheduled to attend are still moving forward, but you’re not going, reach out to the organizers to see if they can patch you in via video. For larger conferences, you may only be able to watch and not participate, but it does allow you to feel somewhat connected to the content. Use this opportunity to also request the attendee list and follow up with one-on-one video meetings with key delegates, so that you can “network” with them, despite not having attended the conference in person. Ask them about their key takeaways from the event, and be prepared to share your own based on the content that you observed.
- Ramp up your social media efforts: You are already online looking up news on the virus (I know you are), so spend some of that time connecting with your contacts instead. Review your connections on your various platforms and do a few key things:
- Identify anyone that you haven’t reached out to recently that you should reconnect with, and send them an invitation for a video conference chat. If you want to make it over coffee or lunch, do that in your office/home office and bond over self-quarantining.
- Make a list of potential clients that you’d like to get to know better, and reach out to them on social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and do some additional research on the types of things they’re posting and sharing. Follow their company pages and see what they’re posting.
- Make it a practice to reach out to 5-10 people a day on LinkedIn – either share an article they’ve authored, comment on a status update they’ve shared, send them a note with a video meeting request, or a request to connect. Use the time that you would be spending on in-person networking to do more online networking.
- Explore some of the other social media platforms out there to see if your clients are there – do you have clients using Twitter? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? If they’re not hanging out in those places, don’t worry, you don’t have to either. But if you have clients that are using and engaging on those networks, it’s worth knowing about them – you can monitor their accounts for research purposes, help them to understand any issues that may arise based on their usage of those platforms, and if you would like, actually engage with them there yourself.
You may be spending more time in your office or working from home over the next few months because of Coronavirus, but it doesn’t mean that your networking efforts have to be suspended. As long as you get creative about the ways in which you approach your reaching out to “touch” someone, you’ll stay connected AND healthy. And remember, more handwashing and less handwringing!