In other parts of the world, networking meetings are a normal part of the business day. Travel to Dubai, Australia or Singapore, and you’ll find that networking is something that people discuss openly and enthusiastically. It’s clear that networking works. But, in the UK, there still seems to be some residual embarrassment about it. Why?

UK networking

UK networking has changed

My first experience with UK networking was not a positive one!

I went along to a local networking meeting for the first time over 15 years ago. I had started my own business publishing local magazines in 2005, having moved to the area a couple of years earlier. I think I was hoping to meet other local business owners in the same boat and to meet some potential customers.

When I walked into the in-person meeting in the function room of a local pub, my heart sank. The meeting was stuffy, old-fashioned, and dominated by men in suits thrusting their business cards into my hand. Interactions were formal and it was clear that some people had already formed cliques. I don’t like public speaking at the best of times, and I felt like everyone was trying to sell to me.

I didn’t go back. Traditional UK networking felt pushy and inauthentic, so I understand why other people assume that networking isn’t for them! I think those traditional meetings have a lot to answer for!

A culture of not networking?

Since I founded ScreenPop, a UK networking business, with my twin sister, Katherine, in 2020, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are suspicious and almost disapproving of what we do. While networking is widely accepted elsewhere, it’s still not the norm for many small business owners.

I think that part of the problem lies in cultural difference. Us Brits are well-known for our characteristic reserve, and successful networking requires us to put ourselves out there. I often hear prospective customers say they want to try one of our meetings, but they’re too nervous. Without fail, they realise it’s not that bad once they’ve tried it. Our meetings are friendly and supportive and our members often become each other’s biggest cheerleaders!

We’re also uncomfortable talking about money, especially in public. We don’t like asking people to pay for our time or services. But here’s the cold hard truth: if you work for yourself, you’re going to have to go in search of customers, unless you have a ready-made network.

Ultimately, I think the major problem is that networking isn’t embedded in the UK’s business culture – yet.

Nepotism is still alive and kicking, and the age-old adage, ‘it’s all about who you know,’ still rings true. If you didn’t go to school or university with your dream contacts or clients, it’s hard to connect with other businesses. People are made to feel that it’s embarrassing to look for contacts outside of our social groups, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Networking is a way of democratising the market.

Networking is changing

The traditional networking experience that I hated all those years ago is no longer the norm. Although those formal meetings still exist, today, there are far more options to choose from.

Although the pandemic had many negative consequences, it made it possible to network with people around the country and beyond from the comfort of your own home. Online meetings often feel less intimidating, as well as offering some much-needed connection for those of us who work from home.

We also run in-person networking meetings in Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire, with more on the way in the future. All of our UK networking meetings, online and off, are informal and welcoming, and it’s rare that you’ll see anyone in a suit handing out a stack of business cards.

As the UK moves further into the 21st century, I’m convinced that networking is the way forward for business.

To learn more about our networking groups, get in touch.

Networking online might be a practical alternative to in-person meetings, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its challenges. Learning to come across at your best over Zoom is a skill, but anyone can learn to do it by following a few simple rules. Today, we’re sharing our top tips to network well online.

1. Camera on, mic off!

Networking is all about building personal relationships with potential customers, collaborators and contacts. The last thing you want to do is cut off that connection by turning your camera off. Being visible indicates that you’re listening to what others are saying, so unless you need to answer the door or leave the room for a moment, keep your camera on.

Microphones are another story. If it’s not your turn to talk, it’s important to mute yourself so that you don’t distract other people with background noise. Everyone has had the odd muting mishap, but it’s good etiquette to habitually turn your mic off when your moment has finished.

2. Framing is everything

Check your camera set-up, lighting and background ahead of time. Avoid unflattering angles and visible clutter! Never sit with your camera on your lap – as a rule, it’s best to keep it at eye level. We generally recommend using a Zoom background when you’re in a meeting. This has a few great benefits: it masks any mess in the background and can also be branded, helping people remember who you are and what you do.

Network well online

3. Optimise your body language

We recently attended a brilliant talk from our member, Tracey Baum, who taught us all about optimising our body language to network well online. We learned one of the most important things when networking online is looking friendly and engaged. Make sure that you look into the camera, rather than at the screen, when you’re talking, and try to keep smiling!

4. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Plan what you’re going to say ahead of time. Umming and ahing is a great way to make your fellow networkers lose interest. It’s a good idea to write down a few bulletpoints, but make sure you aren’t just reading directly from a bit of paper. It’s obvious to others when you’re doing this and it breaks the connection you have with your listeners.

5. Make the most of the chat function

Zoom’s chat function is there for a reason! There are a variety of ways to make the most of it. Firstly, always put your details in the chat for others’ ease of access. Secondly, you can use the private chat to talk to other attendees directly, arrange 1:1 meetings, or answer queries. The chat is also a great place to offer feedback on people’s presentations or introductions without disrupting the flow of the meeting!

6. Connect with people on other platforms


After a meeting ends, it’s easy to log off and get on with your day. However, if you take five minutes after each meeting you attend to connect with the people you’ve met on other platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll make sure you stay at the forefront of their minds.

7. Get to know your fellow members in 1:1s


One of the most common ways I see our members going wrong is failing to organise 1:1 calls after the meeting. Talking to people individually is the best way to intensify your connections and get the most out of your network. Even if a fellow member isn’t a potential customer, they may know someone who is, or be able to help you in other aspects of your life. Aim to have at least 2-3 1:1 calls a month to get to know people, and stick to your appointments!


Learning to network well online is all about being authentic and approachable, while making the most of your connections.

If you’d like to hear about more ways to network well online, why not download Katherine’s free ebook, The Networking Bible?


There is currently nothing else like ScreenPop. My twin, Penny Clemmow, and I are frequently told this by our members, and we are proud to have grown this wonderful community so quickly. So why did we decide to launch ScreenPop?

When my other networking company had to move its twenty-four physical groups onto zoom in March 2020, it was a stressful time. Like most business owners, I had to make quick decisions and changes in order to survive and try to thrive. With a new temporary payment structure in place, I realised how well the majority of my nearly 300 members adapted to online networking. Moreover, I started to get many messages from members who were seeing huge benefits in networking online. They could visit more groups and meet dozens of people they would never have normally been able to network with. This led to lots of one-to-one meetings between members and resulted in a lot more business being generated for members with all kinds of businesses.  

At a time when everything was very uncertain, people felt refreshed and invigorated by the online meetings. Instead of seeing no one other than those in their household, they were meeting many new people all the time. For those living alone, this was even more of a lifeline and an uplift.  

At this point my expectations were that the Covid restrictions would be short term so that my face-to-face groups would be able to return within a few months. This made me realise that I wanted something separate from physical networking. It would be fantastic to offer something that would allow people all over the country, or even abroad, a structured but relaxed networking experience without leaving the comfort of their own environment. 

Over the years, I came across many potential networking clients who felt despondent that their health or other factors stopped them from driving. Some people were without any transport so were unable to attend physical meetings. 

I talked to Penny, who had not enjoyed most of the networking she had tried in her area, often finding it rather unfriendly or cliquey. Penny has a wealth of experience working with small business owners to help them increase their visibility through her publishing business. We talked about bringing the warmth and support of Pop Connect to online networking across the country. The lack of pressure to have to refer, the building of relationships within a group, getting to know other members in order to understand how best to help each other, so you can signpost the right people towards each other. We wanted a real community of business owners. We wanted to offer an experience of being able to access a huge range of expertise through the wider networking community in our other groups. 

We started ScreenPop to provide warm and supportive, authentic online networking around the country, and we are growing it quickly in order to provide this service for more and more small business owners. Everyone is welcome.   

Whether you are an experienced networker, completely new to networking, an established business or a brand-new business, ScreenPop can help you grow both your business and your network. Contact Penny and I via our online form to discover the groups that will work for you.

With six years’ experience in running a networking company, I am very aware that most small business owners have mixed feelings about returning to physical networking right now.  It seems clear that the majority of people are trying to negotiate a “new normal” and work out how to move forward. 

People who network fall into different categories. There are those who hated the idea of online networking when meetings were forced online last year, then reluctantly tried it and loved it! There are those who decided they would hate it, so never gave it a chance. Some people tried it, but claim to miss the energy in the face-to-face meetings. Then there are those who have embraced it from the start, realising the possibilities.  

So, what are the reasons for networking online now and how does ScreenPop fit the bill? 

Well, firstly, there are no petrol costs. This is a real benefit because it means you are inputting time but less money. Additionally, online networking typically costs less than face-to-face as you avoid any extra spending on food, venues, beverages and parking.  

When you are preparing for a physical networking meeting, it usually takes some time to prepare yourself before setting off. That might be finding an appropriate outfit, doing your hair and/or makeup, organising yourself to locate a pen, business cards, probably an attendee sheet or notebook and, perhaps, making sure the car has petrol, setting up your sat nav, finding out where the venue is and where to park. Online networking also cuts out travel time to and from a venue – this could easily take a couple of hours out of your day.  

If you network online you might choose to print off the attendee sheet and look at who is going to be there but, other than making sure you will look respectable in your window and that you won’t have too much noise around you, the pressure is off. 

Typically, you will meet more people and so may well make more valuable contacts when you network online because you and other attendees can attend additional groups more easily. This means that, unless you, or they have a very localised business, you can network further from your workplace and are less tied to a physical area.   

Contrary to what some people say about the energy in the room, there can be fantastic energy in an online meeting. It can be lively, fun, emotional, fascinating or boring just like a face-to-face networking meeting. You can get a very good feel for other attendees when you see them engaging well, listening, commenting in the chat and smiling, or perhaps less positively if they constantly switch off their camera, look like they are engaged in something else, have little to say about others and seem unresponsive and unsupportive. 

So far, I haven’t touched on the COVID-19 numbers increasing, or on the fact that there is much talk in the media of expectations of a flu epidemic as we move into the winter. If you are vulnerable to viruses of any kind, are disabled or have a compromised immune system or health issue of any kind, then online networking allows you to come into contact with all sorts of people without coming into contact with all sorts of viruses! It’s a definite win-win situation. 

ScreenPop is unique in that you really do become part of an incredibly warm, supportive online community where you can make contacts around the country, collaborate and help each other; within your own group there will be nobody else competing for the same type of business (as each group operates a lock out). You get two free visits to other ScreenPop groups every month to assist you in growing your network, and all this is very effective in terms of access to experts and growth of your business. This is available to you without leaving the comfort of your own home, and it’s well within your networking budget too.  

If you’d like to find out more about how online networking can support your business, or would like to join one of our groups, please contact us using our online contact form.