The world has changed a lot in the past 18 months - and it’s becoming more apparent how different things are, as normal life starts to slide back into view.
The need for networking has probably never been greater, but after over a year of limited contact, online webinars and avoiding handshakes, people may find networking more difficult than ever before. With that being said it’s important to remember that the old adage “opportunities come attached to people” is still as true as it always has been, especially for small business owners.
Here are some tips that may be useful to help you adapt and make connections in the new landscape.
Tip 1. Build your digital profile
Whether it’s a hybrid, virtual or even a physical event it’s still important to have a strong digital presence. Review your LinkedIn profile before attending to ensure that it’s relevant to the people that you want to meet. The jury is still out on whether business cards are appropriate in the current environment at physical events, so a strong digital presence will mean you’re easy to find for anyone who wants to reach out.
Tip 2. It doesn’t have to be awkward
If the thought of networking makes you feel uncomfortable, try and re-frame the experience. In reality, it’s as easy as thinking of what you can do for other people, or indeed what you need. Most of us like to feel useful and it can help reinvigorate an individual’s sense of purpose when they assist others.
Also, try to remember networking is not about sealing a deal, it’s about building connections, so take the pressure off yourself.
Tip 3. Do it differently
Networking can happen in a multitude of ways, maybe you wish to reach out to people in a new way or even focus on reconnecting. Sending a handwritten note to a customer or former colleague can be a good way to let them know you’re thinking of them. Additionally, sending a related article or podcast can be an easy way to maintain a connection.
Tip 4. Virtual events and video conferencing
Before any virtual event, find out what options are available to facilitate online networking. Will there be a chat function, or the option to speak to someone via video call? If there is someone you would like to talk to, message them beforehand to let them know. The conversation may flow more easily if you prepare the ground first, rather than just popping up on someone’s computer screen.
Tip 5. Remember your goal
Connections are often the start of working relationships. You can often accomplish more, faster and more effectively when you collaborate. Think about how you can clearly communicate what you have to offer and what you may need.
The power of a collaborative network
At InterTradeIreland we really understand the value of collaboration. Bringing in different perspectives can lead to more creativity, less groupthink and better results.
We have a number of supports in place to help you find a partner to collaborate with, including our Innovation Boost programme which links your business with a third level institution with specific expertise to help you develop new products or processes. Our Synergy initiative also provides opportunities for cross-border collaboration, and is designed to increase SME participation in innovative networks of entrepreneurs, academics, policy makers, corporates and third sector participants.
Connect with investors
Making useful connections can often lead to further opportunities down the line. At InterTradeIreland we can offer you the chance to connect with active investors and other like-minded entrepreneurs through our Funding programmes.
InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition allows companies to receive feedback and advice from real-world investors -as well as the opportunity to make invaluable connections and PR opportunities. Our Venture Capital Conference is also a chance to hear from investment experts and a great place to develop links with fellow business owners and potential investors.
Putting yourself out there can often seem daunting, but networking can create valuable connections and increase opportunities for both you and your business. Reaching out via LinkedIn or attending a virtual event can be a good place to start or for more information on networking and collaboration, visit InterTradeIreland.