Networking has always been a vital part of the work I do. In particular, networking with elected officials or key community stakeholders to help garner knowledge and support for my organization. I have always been quite good at this, but the shift to virtual has been challenging for me. However, I am learning how to adapt 3 key skills that helped me be successful in the face to face world, so that I can continue to be successful in the virtual world.
Skill #1 is asking for the meeting – In face to face interactions at an event I have always made sure the door was open for a more in depth conversation later. Making sure I have the individual’s contact information and letting them know I will schedule a meeting, and then promptly doing so has been a successful strategy for me. Obviously, I can’t just hand someone my card and ask for theirs in the virtual world, but it is also easier to find contact info for people these days. By researching websites and social media profiles, I can find contact info, and then make an introduction and ask for a meeting.
Skill #2 is listening more than you talk. In a face to face meeting, whether at a networking event or not, it is very important to listen to the other person, so that you can start to understand their needs and motivations, and you can explain how partnering with you can help them with that. If you don’t know what they care about, how can you show a partnership is of value? This translates well to virtual evets and meetings – just ask them to explain what they do first, and don’t be afraid to take notes. When it is your turn to explain what you do, make sure to highlight the key words you picked up from them, to show that you respect their goals and think you can help them achieve them.
Skill #3 is do your research. This is actually easier to do in the virtual world! Whenever I meet someone at a networking event, I make sure to fully research them and/or their organization online, before going into a face to face meeting with them. It’s all a part of trying to understand their goals, and why they do what they do. Virtually, it is the same, except that you can do it before your initial meeting. It is important to not just research websites, but also look closely at social media, as it often has the most current thoughts and concerns of the individual or their organization.
Moving forward, it looks like my networking will have to continue to be virtual for the next year or so. Therefore, by focusing on the fundamentals, and skills I know I am good at, I think I can build success into my work.
What networking strategies have you adapted from the real world to online?