Networking in the Post-Covid Era
In 2020, we grew accustomed to distancing. We stayed home, joined meetings via zoom, and stayed 6 feet away from each other whenever necessary. In 2021, as the world began opening up again, we still were used to the long quarantine times, we were unsure about what was safe, and more than likely, remained home because we have grown to enjoy being in our comfort zone. We have shifted into a “post-Covid” era where businesses are welcoming people back, sitting down in restaurants is normal again, and we aren’t afraid to shake hands. But what does this all mean? Networking events are back! Do you feel as though you have lost your networking touch? Or maybe you joined the workforce during Covid and never had a chance to network at events.
Here are a few tips to help you understand the importance of networking in the post-Covid era, as well as what to do before, during, and after a networking event!
What is Networking?
To put it simply, networking is interacting with others in order to grow professional relationships as well as exchange useful information. What makes networking a challenge in 2022 is the fact that we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to interact in the last 2 years. Networking is a great way to expose your brand to potential clients as well as share ideas and learn from other professionals. According to LinkedIn 87% of professionals contribute their career success to networking. The need for networking when it comes to the growth of your business or career is still there and hasn’t been diminished by the pandemic.
Who needs Networking?
Whether you are the new hire on the team, you are just starting your career, or you are the CEO of a company- you need networking! Building connections is crucial no matter what stage of your career you are in.
Getting back into the groove of socializing, pitching products, and making small talk can seem daunting at first. Let’s break down the event into three parts, what to do before, during, and after the event!
Before the event
Being prepared for any sort of event is key to success. You want to ensure your first impressions are lasting impressions for all of the right reasons.
- Prepare materials – This includes ensuring you have more than enough business cards, brochures, or even copies of your portfolio. Make sure these materials are easily accessible to keep you from fumbling in your bag or briefcase. Additionally, make sure they are neat and clean and do not look like they have been living in your pocket or bag for the past 2 years.
- Nail down your Elevator speech – This is a quick 30-second “speech” that you give when someone introduces themselves. Basically, say your name, where you work, your past experiences, and future goals. Here is an example of my elevator speech:
“Hi, I am Laura Sellers! I’m the content coordinator for Light Alive Marketing where I write content for websites, social media, and advertisements. Before my recent move to the area, I was an English teacher so I am thrilled to get the chance to work with the businesses in our community in such a creative way. I am excited to be able to use my skills to help more businesses!”
If you are networking on behalf of a business, be sure to know your business’s elevator pitch! Be ready to sum up your business’s mission, products, and services!
- Research attendees – If your event has a guest list that is public such as an invite through Facebook, you may be able to see who all will be attending. This is a great way to figure out who would be interested in what you have to offer.
During the event
For the past two years, you have been able to stay introverted and in your comfort zone. A networking event is your chance to show yourself off!
- Start conversations – Yes, this is very intimidating at first. This is definitely something that takes practice before feeling confident. If walking up to someone is not your thing, then try this trick: get in line for the refreshments! Lines automatically put you near someone else, you can easily break the ice while talking about what is being served, and the conversation can easily be ended by the time you get to the end of the line.
- Ask questions and truly listen – People want to feel like they are being heard and that what they have to say is valuable. Give them your attention, be excited about what they have to say, and ask to learn more! You will be surprised by what you can learn in just a brief conversation.
After the event
The networking doesn’t end once the event is over. In order to see the benefits of your networking, you have to maintain the connections that you have made.
- Connect through social media – Make sure to add the people you met on social media. It is called “social networking” for a reason! It is a great opportunity to turn connections into relationships where you are engaging with each other’s content, see the services that you offer, and another way to show off your brand.
- Stay in touch – In addition to social media, be sure to send a follow-up email after the event. This will let the people that you met know that you valued the time they took to speak with you. It is a small gesture that goes a long way.
You can do it!
Networking after an extended period of time of being distanced is going to feel different. It doesn’t matter if it is your 30th event or if it is your first, you will still have nerves when it comes to striking up conversations with strangers and putting yourself and your business out there. Just remember, you can do it! It takes practice to build your confidence and that is okay. You have to start somewhere. Your business will thank you for it!