It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses run.
Having to adapt to a whole new virtual reality sounds like something from way into the future, but it’s happening now! Alongside social distancing measures and different back-to-work regimes, although it sounds like a drag, it’s not all that bad, right? In addition to ‘normality’ and the usual working day, give a thought to the huge number of conferences and networking events that have had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic too.
Why is networking important?
Whether they have been cancelled, postponed or moved online, the entire networking infrastructure has been compromised during this pandemic. But, one thing’s for sure, it will never be completely abolished.
Networking is incredibly important for any business! It helps connect businesses with like-minded people who share the same goals and interests. Plus, building brand awareness and increasing authority in their sector go hand-in-hand with these connections.
This is also true when it comes to networking with local businesses in your area as you share the same common ground. By networking both locally and nationally, and even internationally, businesses can forge new relationships with partners, customers and potential clients.
These events are so important for business and won’t be lost forever, only adapted.
How networking has changed
No matter what anyone says, no one can actually tell the future. Businesses and networking have had to take each day as it comes and adjust as they go along. But we are allowed to have some predictions, so here’s what we think the future looks like for networking, post-pandemic.
The main change that is apparent is the rise in virtual networking and video conferencing. Location is no longer a barrier with virtual technology, so there is a larger reach and wider audience for businesses to connect with. This also means that you can travel the world in your tracksuit bottoms and corporate shirt – and no one will ever know!
Although saving travel time and meeting like-minded people from around the globe sounds great, what about maximum capacity? These online applications are not able to hold the same full capacity that in-person networking event would and, you have to admit, it’s just not the same.
Imagine trying to forge business connections with an audience watching your cat walking in front of your webcam, or even your one-year old barging into your office? As funny as it was, we know you don’t want to go viral like “BBC dad”.
These chance encounters are very different from the ones that happen during face-to-face networking.
However, businesses have to work with the facilities that are available to them and try to use them to the best of their ability. There are still in-person networking events that are taking place too, with social restrictions and limited capacities that can still work to their advantage.
How to prepare for new networking
Every business is different and will have to tailor post-pandemic networking to their strategy by deciding whether virtual or limited in-person events are better suited to them.
Businesses need to make sure that their online identity matches up with their brand identity. It needs to be consistent and ensure that their message is clearly coming across. This is essential for their online presence across social media and their website, as well as their name on the video conferencing software and backgrounds. No inappropriate décor please!
Top tip: businesses should use social media platforms and other online marketing to inform people of interest that they will be at specific networking events. Additionally, they need to become comfortable with using the virtual technology that is available. Whether it’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure that the entire team is familiar with them and how they work.
Limited in-person networking
Even though networking events will be smaller and more spread out, businesses still need to make a strong impression. Just like ensuring their online identity is consistent, their brand needs to follow through into their exhibition stand design and make an impact on every visitor.
Printed marketing is also an effective way to interact with potential customers and other businesses at in-person networking exhibitions. They should create and give out leaflets, flyers, business cards and booklets that visitors can hold on to and use to get in touch after the event. They are a great way to forge a new relationship, in addition to interacting with them at the exhibition.
Even though the current state of networking can seem quite daunting, it’s not all bad! Networking will survive the pandemic, we’re sure of it, and face-to-face events will always be valuable for any business.