Networking During a Pandemic
by Scott Carpenter | June 30, 2020
Just because there are fewer opportunities to network during the COVID-19 pandemic, doesn’t mean your networking and business development have to stop. In fact, it’s important that your business development tactics keep moving in this environment where every dollar makes a difference. But how do you go about networking when meeting face-to-face and shaking hands is no longer the accepted norm? More importantly, how do you effectively network in a virtual-only world? In this article, we’ll explore five tips for networking in your jammies (or at least from the comfort of your own home).
Networking in Your Jammies
- Focus On Your Customers
Sometimes the best leads come from a stronger network built around simply caring about them. Check in with your entire customer database (current and past customers) through an email, personal handwritten card, or telephone call to ask how they are doing through the pandemic, what you can do to help, and what steps your business is doing to stay ahead of the curve.
- Embrace Technology
Meeting platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and others have transformed business networking during the pandemic. Embrace technology by using it in your networking efforts through inviting prospects to meet using one of these devices. Most platforms allow you to share your computer screen to display a sales presentation, website, or video, as well.
- Use LinkedIn Well
Keep your profile up-to-date to let people know what you’re doing and how you’re doing. Keep the content flowing like a slow drip to stay current in front of your virtual network, which also gives them the chance to check you out, see what’s going on, ask questions, or start a new conversation.
- Chamber Virtual Meet-Ups
Several chamber of commerce’s have virtual networking sessions that allow you to connect with other chamber members online, whether it be a formal presentation or a virtual happy hour. Check your chamber’s calendar of events or contact them directly to find out how to participate.
- Create An Educational Seminar
Use your knowledge, insight and team of experts (which could be a non-employee) to hold an educational seminar. Use the opportunity to become a “subject matter expert” on a specific topic your customers and key prospects want to know about, especially as it relates to the current pandemic. Use email marketing to promote the event and then use the calendar invite functionality within the webinar provider’s platform to invite them to join through a hyperlink.
To make the seminar even more memorable, consider sending a boxed lunch to the attendees to enjoy while they watch your presentation – like a lunch and learn opportunity. This could be accomplished through the sign up process.
Tradeshows and conferences will start to make a reappearance as Florida makes its way through the reopening phases. Even when you are able to exhibit or attend a conference again, you’ll want to be sure you are exhibiting safe social distancing protocols. Keep the three items below in mind should you choose to participate in a tradeshow or conference in person.
- In-person Meeting or Event Attendance
As Florida re-opens, so too are restrictions on physical meetings in both public and the workplace. Social distancing guidelines should always be followed when entering a facility. Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover or mask when you are in the vicinity of others, remain six feet apart and use hand sanitizer often. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you also don’t want to be perceived as the business owner who didn’t care about the health of others.
- At the Show or Conference Location (Booth)
From a distance, show the potential visitor that your team has attempted to make your booth exhibit safe. Have your team wear masks and if you are handling products, wear gloves as well. Be sure to have plenty on hand though, as you’ll need to change them after every interaction with an attendee to avoid spreading germs. Have hand sanitizer readily available on the counter. Consider having two areas within the booth: one that allows your personnel to be within 6 feet of each other using the above guidelines and a second where personnel can interact with prospects who prefer to remain at a distance. You may even want to promote appointments for this section ahead of the event to ensure the booth doesn’t get overcrowded. Consider having your handouts in their own space away from those milling around the booth, for people to easily take and avoid unnecessary interactions with others.
- Pre-Show or Conference
Utilize the show organizer’s promotional opportunities to connect with attendees outside of the physical event location. Many conference organizers provide exhibitors with an attendee list to conduct pre-show direct marketing, which not only enhances the chance to schedule virtual meetings in advance of the show but also provides a great opportunity to promote both your products and safety precautions taken to meet safely within the booth. Additionally, most shows organize hospitality promotion packages to allow in-room, lobby and even airport marketing.
Whether from the safety of your own home or a crowded event space, networking is still an essential part of growing your business. Coronavirus will have a long-lasting effect on how business is conducted around the world, so have a plan in place to make your networking as effective as possible.
Florida SBDC at USF
Scott Carpenter joined the Florida SBDC at USF with a marketing communications and public relations career spanning three decades. Working with brands of all sizes – from EAS Nutrition to DeBartolo Development to Biolife – he was a driving force in creating results, growing brand awareness and enhancing reputations across all customer segments. Experienced in leading national B2C and B2B campaigns to increase profit and loss results through small to multi-million budgets, he led campaigns optimized through advertising (print, digital, broadcast), public relations, direct marketing, and other strategies. For his expertise, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has bestowed upon him the honor of serving as a National Senior Judge for the Silver Anvil Award, the most prestigious communications award in the industry, for 14 consecutive years. In 2019, PRSA named Carpenter to its National Honors & Awards Committee.