With huge advancements in digital technology and, particularly in the last couple of years with the need to maintain some kind of human connection when it’s not always possible ‘in person’, effective networking online has taken a significant shift towards becoming a primary way of building professional connections. With the rise of remote work and online communication platforms, professionals now have the opportunity to build connections remotely and expand their virtual network from any location; home, office, or even a café. It’s become easier than ever to connect with people from all over the world. The advantages of being able to engage in virtual networking and connect with individuals from different geographic locations and industries, has allowed professionals uncapped networking opportunities for business growth.
So, let’s explore some of the key strategies, tips and challenges to network effectively in a virtual environment.
Building Meaningful Connections
Although virtual networking has its limitations, you can still work on building connections remotely and establish relationships with others, despite not being able to meet face-to-face. Building relationships where others can get to know like and trust you, is still key to growing your business. Be proactive and take the initiative to connect with others. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you.
Maximise your opportunities for building meaningful connections with these virtual business networking tips.
- Leverage Online Networking Platforms
You can utilise professional platforms such as LinkedIn, industry-specific forums, and established groups for effective networking online to connect with like-minded professionals. These platforms provide opportunities to engage with business owners who share common interests or professional goals.
- Attend Virtual Events and Webinars
Participate in virtual events, webinars, and workshops related to your field. These online events offer excellent online networking opportunities, enabling you to interact with industry experts, thought leaders, and potential collaborators. Be an active participant by asking questions, sharing insights, and engaging in discussions to make a memorable impression.
- Join Virtual Networking Groups
Seek out and join established online networking groups or communities that align with your professional interests. Engage in group discussions, share valuable content, and offer assistance to establish yourself as a reliable and knowledgeable resource. Being part of an established group, like Scalepreneurs, can lead to an increase in referrals and recommendations, which in turn, can lead to faster business growth.
- Personalise Your Approach
When reaching out to professionals or individuals to increase your virtual network, either directly or as a follow up to a virtual event, make sure you personalise your message to demonstrate genuine interest. Take the time to research specific details about them, their work and achievements. This approach helps build a connection based on shared interests or experiences. Be authentic and genuine in your interactions. Don’t try to be someone you’re not or pretend to know more than you do.
And with all of these opportunities, make sure you follow up with the people you connect with, to maintain regular communication that will ultimately build lasting relationships.
Maximising Engagement and Opportunities
It’s important to make the most of your virtual networking experiences. Whether you’re attending virtual conferences, participating in online industry forums, joining established online networking groups, or reaching out to industry professional individually, you need to understand how to stand out, create authentic connections, and unlock the full potential of these virtual platforms.
- Be Proactive and Consistent
Actively seek out networking opportunities and allocate dedicated time for virtual networking activities. Consistency is key, as regular engagement will ensure you stay top-of-mind among your connections – you want to be their number one referral when others are seeking services or products in your industry.
- Be Visible and Authentic
Maintain an active online presence by regularly sharing valuable content, insights, and industry updates. Authenticity is crucial in virtual networking; be yourself and showcase your expertise while building rapport with others.
- Engage in Thoughtful Conversations
When engaging in online conversations, be thoughtful and attentive. Ask meaningful questions, listen actively, and provide valuable input. Being a good listener and showing genuine interest in others’ perspectives fosters stronger connections, building those important meaningful relationships.
Overcoming Virtual Networking Challenges
As virtual networking continues to evolve, some of the challenges experienced in the early days, like not being fully prepared, or wearing pyjama bottoms in a board meeting, seem to be being addressed and overcome, but there are still ongoing challenges that you need to be aware of for effective communication and collaboration.
- Technical Issues
Technical issues can be a major obstacle in virtual networking. Be prepared by having a backup plan in case of technical difficulties. Prior to virtual networking events, ensure you have a stable Internet connection, functional audio and video equipment, and a familiarity with the chosen platform. Test your setup in advance to avoid any technical glitches that could hinder effective networking.
- Building Rapport in a Digital Environment
Without face-to-face interactions, building rapport can be slightly more of a challenge. Be aware of how to utilise non-verbal cues, such as maintaining eye contact, using appropriate body language, and expressing genuine enthusiasm and interest.
- Be aware of communication barriers
Particularly if you are engaging on a global platform, a significant obstacle in virtual networking is the potential for communication barriers. Issues such as time zone differences, language barriers, and technological limitations can impede effective information exchange and understanding. This can also be affected by limited attention spans. Ensure your message is clear and simple and consider ways to be fully present, regardless of what time of day you might be online.
It’s fair to say the power of connection has expanded beyond physical events and conferences, transcending geographical boundaries and time zones. As professionals and entrepreneurs, employing virtual networking for business growth, we now have the incredible opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals, industry experts, and potential collaborators from a variety of industries and organisations from across the globe.
While online networking presents its own set of challenges, it offers vast opportunities for professional growth and has revolutionised the way we connect and collaborate.