By Kristen Harris
I’ve written past articles about networking, especially as an introvert. I don’t love big events, lots of hand-shaking, or blanketing a room with my business card. Since we’re doing a lot of working from home and most events have been canceled or postponed for the near future, you’d think this would be an introvert’s dream, right? Yes and no.
Funny enough, I miss people! I’ve never loved a huge ballroom full of strangers, but I do like connecting with people one-on-one or in small groups. Right now pretty much all events have been canceled, even smaller luncheons or meetups with my business cohorts. And, whether you love it or not, connecting with others is an important part of most business.
So we have to find ways to “get out there” even if we’re forced to stay in.
Here are a few ways I’ve been connecting recently:
Virtual conferences. One of the unexpected benefits of this shift to stay-at-home has been the number of conferences that are being done virtually. I’m on the board of an industry organization, and I do realize this is not great for the groups putting on the events. However, as an audience member, it’s allowed me to attend several conferences and summits that I wouldn’t have been able to travel for. Each event is done differently, but I’ve always been able to connect with other attendees. Sometimes it’s through small breakout sessions, the chat panel, checking the registration list before the event or receiving an attendee contact list after, or taking a screenshot of the video grid and connecting with people on LinkedIn after the event.
Industry or community conversations. Between coronavirus and social justice issues, 2020 has been quite a year so far. While I would never hope for these things to happen, they have led to a lot of online group conversations. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues with others in my community and industry, and to connect with new people I’d like to have in my personal network. Just like conferences, there are several ways I might connect with people, but usually, I find them on LinkedIn or Instagram after the event.
Volunteer Committees. When I’m a member of an organization, I like to get involved and really be part of the group. One of the best ways for me to meet and get to know people is working together on something we both care about. Committee meetings have continued remotely so I’ve been able to keep building those relationships.
Peer Group. I’ve had a peer group of one type or another for at least ten years. This is a particular group of people I meet with on a regular basis, usually monthly. They’ve always started as business associates but evolved into friendships. I learn a lot from my peers, and they connect me to other people that I need to know or can help. My current peer group has always been virtual, so this has been no change for us!
Mentorship. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in Mentorship programs for several years as well. Usually as the Mentee, sometimes as the Mentor; either way, I learn a lot and build a close relationship with the person I’m working with. The people I’ve met also often know a lot of other people, leading to additional connections. These relationships have easily become virtual, via phone or video call.
Invite for 1-1 Meetups. A new thing I’ve been doing during stay-at-home is inviting people for one-on-one video calls. I never did this before, we would have always met for lunch or coffee. Now we have “video coffee” instead. I started doing this when I realized how much I missed human interaction and wanted to connect with people beyond my internal team. Often it’s a friend or business associate that I haven’t seen for a while, or someone new I just connected with through one of the methods above. It might seem awkward at first, but it’s really fun and the conversation flows no differently than if we were in a coffee shop together.
While methods and locations may have changed, connecting with others is still important. In fact, some of the changes have made it easier for this introvert to meet one-on-one or in small groups, and to network in ways that make me more comfortable.