What comes to mind when I use the words “connecting,” “reconnecting,” and “networking”… especially when it comes to business (any business – including a nonprofit business)?
Allow me to give you a minute to think about it!
—- (please think about it for 60 seconds before reading on) —
Do they mean the same thing?
Are they differentiated by how many people are involved?
Do these terms bring up different feelings for you?
The Britannica Dictionary defines network as “a group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other.”
I believe networking does not need to involve “a group of people or organizations” who “work with each other.”
What the pandemic taught me about networking (and myself):
I used to attend many in-person networking “events.” They were sponsored by various Chambers of Commerce, my professional associations, and business-related meetups.
Over the years, I found one major thing they all had in common – I really disliked most networking events!
But I attended because, as a small business owner, I felt like I “should” network as a way to market my services. That’s what “everybody” used to tell me! They would say things like:
- Go to networking events and remember your business cards!
- Try out your latest elevator speech!
- You have to get out there to get known!
So I did – at least three or more events each month.
When COVID shut everything down in March 2020, I removed the in-person networking events from my calendar.
I remember feeling positively giddy! Webster defines giddy as “joyfully elated”! I remember that feeling as if it were yesterday.
I found more time to reconnect over Zoom with colleagues who brought a smile to my face each time we talked. I contacted people in my professional organizations and made many new connections.
I hate large groups and events, but I thrive in small groups and 1-on-1 conversations. I truly enjoy them!
And I’ve networked 5 times more often and 10 times more effectively because I’m more authentic!
How was that possible?
Because I’m being true to myself and doing what feels easy.
In an in-person event, I tend to hang out on the edges, where there are fewer people (often people like me who hate crowds). I exchange a few business cards and make some small talk. Because I can’t hear them over the noise, I understand very little of what they do.
That business card will likely be added to the stack on my desk, and the necessary follow-up will almost certainly never be completed. Without the follow-up, there is no value in the time and energy spent networking!
In an online networking event, I get to hear one person talk at a time (we all know it is impossible to hear anyone when many people are talking at the same time on a Zoom call).
I get to meet with smaller groups of people in Zoom breakout rooms, which allows me to get to know them better. I can look them up on LinkedIn during the meeting, decide if I want to meet them 1-on-1 on a Zoom call, and send them an invitation – all before or immediately after I leave the meeting!
As a result, I have many more in-depth conversations over Zoom than I ever did at in-person events. In addition, I tend to follow-up, which allows me to get to know people better.
I can connect with people of my choosing who would be beneficial, or just fun, to know. I can reconnect with them in a few months. And I can build stronger relationships so that we have a better idea of how we can help each other. This makes the quality of our introductions and our referrals for one another much more fruitful and effective!
What about YOUR networking?
Take 10 minutes and look at the last six months of your calendar. How many in-person networking meetings have you attended? What results did you get from them? How many one-on-one networking meetings did you have either in-person or on Zoom? What resulted from them? Which ones did you enjoy the most? Which were most effective?
It doesn’t matter how you network, whether you network in-person or online, in groups or one-on-one.
What matters is that you figure out what you want to get out of your networking time. Determine whether you are getting that from how you spend your networking time.
If you’re not getting the results you want from your networking time, what could you do differently so that you enjoy it, find it easy, and get better results?
I would love to hear about your own networking, connecting, and reconnecting experiences and results!