Before COVID we all thought that it was natural to meet and greet in a herd environment. Psychology Today even stated, “human beings are herd animals… we survive only in highly coordinated groups”.
But during COVID, networking was made illegal. Not since the Spanish flu was such severe restrictions on networking recorded. One hundred years later there was a solution of sorts to the need to herd by humans. It was called Zoom. The end result was that the herd animal, the human was locked in their home and told to continue working using a flat screen, where they and others were represented by a head and shoulder shot on that flat screen. The ability to speak was controlled by a new term known as “you are on mute”. So much for the human skill described as “Individually, we are designed to pick up social cues and coordinate and align our behaviour with those around us”.
As in all pandemics, there will be ongoing costs. One that comes immediately to mind is the loss of a person’s networking skills. After two plus years of lockdown, we all emerge a little rusty in our networking skills. Let’s take a look at five steps to getting back in the herd and network.
Just take the first step. Acknowledge that to get back in with the “business herd of humans” networking is vital and your journey must now start to recommence. Accept the first opportunity that you are invited to. Rusty as you may be those intuitive skills need reawakening. Such skills will be reawakened with a little practice.
Be sure to bring your body and mind. Remember, networking is showtime! Every nuance is noticed. Entering a room is a physical health check. Looking good means more than clothing. A greeting is a mental assessment of engagement. In networking, every call is a sales call!
Polish up that elevator pitch. Good as it was in the past, the world is now post-COVID. Maybe inviting folks for a boardroom meeting is a bit passé particularly if you now work from home. Suggesting a coffee may seem a time waster to the post-COVID buyer as they may be time-poor and happy to follow up with a Zoom call and then coffee. Maybe you are more of a face-to-face person and struggle with Zoom. Play to your strengths.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Dress for whatever first impression you wish to set. Dressing for Zoom was often only the top half of the task. Not to mention you were always doing everyone a favour by being there. Not anymore. The economy is getting tougher and buyers will not be wanting to see that you are fresh out of the garden.
Have a business card that reminds the holder of what you were offering. Maybe a card with a photo, and an overview of what services you offer on the back. As fascinating as you are, after an event when twenty equally charming folks have met your potential client you need to be the one that the client is prompted to call or at the very least remember what you were selling the last time you met.
Get out as fast as you can so that others don’t relearn their networking skills before you. After a few events, you will work out which ones worked for you in manner and potential. Once your confidence is returning, a brutal assessment of the time and energy invested is required. Following up all and sundry will be the easiest way to assess if an event was worth your valuable time and emotional energy.