Distancing, masks, remote meetings: how has networking, based on exchanges and relationships, survived in the last two years? And what will the future hold for it in a post-pandemic world?
People in the community are already taking stock of the effects of the arrival of COVID-19 on networking. And like many areas, all is not dark.
“While some were complaining about what they couldn’t do any more because of the pandemic, others recognized what they could do now that they couldn’t do before. When you think of it that way, it opens up new horizons,” summarizes François Garon, executive director and franchise owner (Laval Laurentides Lanaudière territory) of Business Network International (BNI), a recommendation and networking marketing organization.
First of all, consider the quick and widespread implementation of digital tools such as Zoom and Teams. For networking, this new way of doing things has many advantages. For one thing, fewer conferences and meetings make for significant time and money savings. Next, borders are coming down.
“A lot of business people tell me that they now have access to more distant markets and that they’ve gone from local to international. It’s really stimulating to see that,” continues François Garon. “It will never replace in-person contacts, but it can definitely improve our productivity.”
With the gradual return of face-to-face meetings, we understand that we can no longer act like we did before. We’ll have to take on new behaviours to avoid slips. François Garon remarks, with a smile in his voice, “that introverts are coping better.” And with good reason: “at the moment, you have to keep a certain reserve, a certain distance and respect everyone’s bubble,” he explains.
In person, remotely, in hybrid mode, by text message, by email or by phone: the possibilities of networking are multiplying. We must make wise choices for ourselves and our contacts.
Roshni Rao, director at PHutures, a professional development office at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, sums it up well: “What we will have learned from the pandemic is to be more effective networkers. Send shorter messages, have more impactful conversations within the specified time, learn to start and finish on time, be respectful of people’s time.”
What isn’t changing
One thing’s sure for François Garon, “networking isn’t changing because of using different tools. It remains the creation of links and contacts. For me, the important thing has always been to favour an approach that promotes the relationship before the transaction.”
To build a solid network which we can rely on, rain or shine, we need to share information, knowledge, expertise and customer recommendations. And that, virtual or face-to-face, does not change.