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.