How to network and connect in a hybrid world
It feels like as soon as we (finally) got the hang of online networking, we’re in this new hybrid world. Things aren’t fully ‘back to normal’ — if they ever will be! — and events often give you the option to join live or online, meaning it’s a little tricky to connect with new people. That being said, we’re now all well-versed in picking up new ways of working, and so with a few small tweaks, you’ll be back to your networking best in no time. We’ve collected our best tips and tricks on networking in a hybrid world.
- Use online networking to prepare you for IRL
“Networking online can be a great primer for IRL,” says Isabel Sachs, founder of ILIKENETWORKING and (unsurprisingly) the go-to for all things related to growing your network. “You can practice your pitch in written form, and read it out loud before sending it,” she suggests. “If it makes you cringe, it’s not the right tone of voice for you, and you won’t be able to deliver it in real life.”
- Build hybrid connections
Just because you initially connect with someone online doesn’t mean you can’t then meet them in real life — and vice versa. If you meet someone you really click with at an IRL event, set up a virtual catch-up for a few weeks later. It’s a low-stakes way to keep the conversation going, without having to coordinate endlessly to find a cafe perfectly between your two locations. “There’s something really great about starting a conversation online that moves to a real-life meeting when possible,” says Sachs. “There’s no need to choose just one way of networking!”.
- Audit your personal brand both online…
How do you come across to people who you’ve just met? Do they think you’re friendly? Approachable? Corporate? Professional? It’s a good idea to audit your personal brand on a regular basis, both for online and offline purposes. Starting with online, go through your social media profiles. A half-empty LinkedIn profile isn’t the best look, so spend a few minutes making sure everything’s up to date, and that you’re happy with the image you’re presenting. Ensure your bios are typo-free, and that your social media profiles link to your website.
- …and offline
When it comes to your offline personal brand, you can let your personality shine through in everything from your dress sense to the words you use. It’s more subtle than online, but the “first impressions” expression exists for a reason. If you’re going for a fun, friendly vibe, make sure you’re dressed the part. Similarly, if you’re going for a corporate look, dress up smart and avoid too-casual chats with people you meet. If you’re really dedicated, try turning up to your next IRL networking event dressed in your brand colours! The important thing here is that you’re choosing how you show up — however that might look for you.
- Build personal connections
It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a meeting room together, or chatting over Zoom: at the end of the day, it’s about the connection you form. Hone in on what makes someone unique (and let your own personality shine through too, of course!), and you’ll build a strong bond regardless of how you’re actually talking. As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, it’s very possible to build close friendships and working relationships without ever having met in person, so don’t hold back, and make connections with people across the world!
- Figure out what suits you best
We’re all different, and there isn’t one ‘right’ way to network. Some of us prefer meeting face to face, but delivering workshops online, for example, whereas others are happy to keep all communication via our screens, whether that’s a matter of personal preference or practicality. After all, if you’re off being a digital nomad in Bali, it’s not exactly easy to hop back to Manchester for a networking coffee… It’s worth trying out a variety of events, from IRL work speed-dating, to online events that use breakout rooms. You’ll soon get a sense of the events you most enjoy attending, and you can focus on situations that best suit you, spending your energy on meeting inspiring new work connections.
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