4 Essential Tips For Networking During a Pandemic

Even for the most outgoing and sociable of us, walking into a room full of strangers with the goal of making new connections can be daunting. Now in a post-COVID world where large in-person events are off the table networking has followed the rest of the world of work and moved online. With the immense amount of uncertainty that has been created by the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, and serious restrictions on everyday life, it is arguably more important than ever before to grow your professional network.

Don’t know where to start? Use these tips to find your bearings and start making mutually beneficial (and mutually safe!) connections.

Invest in Your Digital Personal Brand

Your personal brand is like any brand you might see on a billboard. It’s a uniform, curated impression that you want others to have about your experience, your competency, or any other aspect of the value you have to offer others.

Yes, by the way, effective networking is all about the value you have to offer. More on that in a moment.

In our post-COVID world in-person connections are far less common than they used to be. That means that for the people you will be reaching out to, your online persona—your personal brand—is the only version of you that your prospects see.

To update your personal brand, start with the simple stuff. Make sure your LinkedIn profile, portfolio, case studies, or other examples of your work are up to date. Framing is important as well. Can you present an achievement from two years ago as relevant to the current business landscape?

Once the basic legwork is out of the way, consider doing some more advanced personal branding. What is your personal value proposition? How does your experience solve the pain points of the people you are talking to? Taking the time now to determine a concise presentation of the value you have to offer can save time and awkwardness down the road.

What certifications do you have that convey your expertise? What accolades have you received that can impress upon others your achievements? If you don’t have a lot of these on hand, consider investing in some online training or similar experience-building learning program—preferably one that comes with a certificate of completion.

Honing your personal value proposition into a single, concise elevator pitch is not only a good practice but it can be a good method of qualifying your prospects. As you make new connections and learn more about your prospects, having an ultra-refined value statement helps you identify the contacts that are worth pursuing further and the ones that might not be as good of a fit.

Audit Your Network

Start simple with people you already know. Think about your current professional network—who do you know? Everyone has their own personal network, and you can think of each person you already know as steppingstone or a gatekeeper to their own extended network of professional connections.

Additionally, we are all more receptive to messages from people we know.

Put the call out and make it known that you are looking for connections. Helpful members of your own personal network can make introductions on your behalf to bridge the gap between two strangers and help make a strong connection.

Be sure that you are focusing on what you have to offer. A classic mistake is picking networking prospects based on what they have to offer you. Going into a conversation with this level of singlemindedness often results in failure—a savvy professional knows when they are being prospected for what they have to offer.

Instead, a focus on exactly what it is you can do for them keeps your audience more engaged and thinking about the reasons they should make a connection with you instead of thinking about ways to get out of the conversation. Because it is so much easier for prospects to simply not reply to an email or instant message (rather than rudely cutting an in-person conversation short) it is all the more important to keep your prospects engaged with your networking efforts.

At the very least you will build up a reputation for being helpful and for suggesting solutions to your prospects’ problems—nothing wrong with that!

Make It Personal

And that doesn’t just mean personal for your prospects. Good networking is based on connections that are both personal as well as professional. It is one thing to convert a someone who needs what you are selling into a customer, but it takes a personal touch to convince them to tell ten friends about their great experience.

This means making your outreach personal on both ends.

When talking to prospects make sure they know that your email, direct message, or other form of communication isn’t a template that you are planning to send en masse to hundreds of other people. Use their name and other pertinent details when addressing them and put in an effort to learn small details that you can use in conversation.

Don’t just make what you say to them personal, however, make what you say about yourself personal as well. Be honest, ask for help, or tie your story to theirs and make a genuine effort to connect with your prospect. Don’t invest too much emotion however, ultimately networking is a business function. If a connection wasn’t meant to be then it’s time to cut your losses and move on to the next prospect.

Consistency Pays Off

Networking—during a pandemic or otherwise—is not a one and done task. To keep growing your business and uncovering new opportunities it is necessary to constantly be meeting and talking to new people. Make sure that you are comfortable using video conferencing software, direct messaging apps, and that you have good email etiquette.

Block off time for networking activities and track your results. Start small; commit to having five conversations a week with either members of your own professional circle or complete strangers with no expectations. By dedicating time on your calendar to networking activities and tracking your results you are making networking a business function and a priority.

Converting the process of forging personal and professional connections into a numbers game might seem counterintuitive at first, but being consistent and honestly evaluating your own performance and results is the key to making the connections you want to uncover the opportunities you need.

The Bottom Line

Business is done between people. It doesn’t matter if they are in the same room, the same building, or halfway across the globe. Keeping a personal touch in your networking efforts and always thinking of ways to replicate the in-person conversation even on a Zoom call will give you the best networking results.

Be genuine, be honest, and start with the people you already know. Clearly define and communicate the value you have to offer your prospects and be sure to set aside a specific time that is reserved for your networking activities.

As you make more connections and see success from your networking efforts build on this success and reach even more people, never losing sight of the fact that together we can get through the challenges of a post-COVID world.

About The Author

Benjamin Sweeney is the Senior Business Contributor for ClydeBank Media, an author, and digital marketer. He lives in Upstate New York and is obsessed with the worlds of process optimization and entrepreneurship.

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