2020 is clearly the online networking year. Lectures, tutoring sessions, workshops, team meetings, and webinars take place on Google Meet, MS Teams, Zoom, Hopin, or on any other platforms, including social media channels. In many online events, we keep ourselves on mute - and I am not just referring to the microphone.
Did you keep track of all the online events you’ve participated in since March? I wanted to say “I bet there were hundreds of them!”, but I can’t know. What I do know, is that during last week I attended three webinars, a two-day conference, one workshop, one community event, two team meetings, one meet-up and three client meetings, while also working my mind and fingers off (marketeers’ perks). During the 35 weeks since WFH (*), I participated in more than 300 online events, resulting in a screen time of at least 450 hours. Would I have enjoyed gathering with people for some of these events? 100% yes!
The networking era is marvelous and tricky at the same time. You have access to events from all industries and nothing can stop you from clicking the “Buy (free) ticket” button. As there has never been a time before during which it was so easy to join events across the globe, one can quickly see how easy it is to lose focus and get a Zoom fever. Because I am part of the generation of people that doesn’t allow themselves to get bored, whenever I have any free time, I use it to educate myself (reading tons of articles, writing, or connecting with others - preferably all of them in the same time.) But this is why I love so many online events. You can learn and build relationships while being in your jammies.
Each online event is a great opportunity to network. Networking helps you grow your personal brand, be part of communities and have connections with people from different industries. It's about creating those weak connections (Mark S. Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties) that have immense power, especially in the labor market. Following the principle "I have a friend who has a friend who has a friend", through online events you have great chances to hear about various opportunities that your family or friends might have not heard of. By building small connections with people who are not part of your social circle, you can stand out and discover new things.
Your online experience depends on how mentally invested you are in that meeting, course or discussion panel. I must admit that I had opened several webinars links just to put them on in the background, while I did my work. The downside was that I didn’t manage to get too involved in the conversation during the event, but the good things were that I was able to pay partial attention, write some take-aways notes and connect later with the speakers and the participants - still a win.
My lesson? Just unmute yourself. Be truly active and present in any online interaction, be that a lecture or a webinar. Although you might have some main interest areas, try to take part in events from related fields in order to understand the whole ecosystem. Based on my experience, I heartfully suggest you to leave follow-up messages to people you feel you resonate with and to maintain relationships with those you can be useful to and those who can also add value for you. Have a sincere interest in the person you are talking to, because the main ingredient of any kind of long-term relationships is trust. What works best is to “sell” yourself through professionalism, specific knowledge and pure curiosity.
Be curious and attend a conversation regarding sustainable entrepreneurship on November 18 at 7:30 PM (free tickets, of course). Instead of keeping yourself on mute, come surprise us with your open-ended questions, give suggestions, and ask for advice. E-see you then!
(*) Work From Home