How should entrepreneurs approach networking during a pandemic? How do you make new connections and soft intros when you can’t go to events and meet people by accident?

Gautam Mishra

Inkl chief executive officer

Website  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Medium

This may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve actually found networking much easier during the pandemic.

There are probably a few reasons for this.

First, people generally have had greater availability.

Second, the pandemic has pushed us to think more globally.

And third, people around the world are becoming more open to remote collaboration.

Last Thursday for instance, I had calls with people in South America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania — all in one day!

Lockdown? What lockdown?

So, the opportunities are there. But in my experience, you have to go looking for them, rather than them coming to you.

One idea would be to build a list of the top 10 people around the world who can help you. Your dream target list. Think about what’s in it for each of them. And then see how you can get to them — through LinkedIn, Twitter, cold emails, other founders — very few people are really out of reach any more.

Oh, and if someone else approaches you for a similar favour, be generous and willing to help them as well. Yesterday, for example, I connected someone I recently ‘met’ in New York to an old friend who lives in Tokyo.

The more we all do this, the easier it gets.

Winitha Bonney

Amina of Zaria founder, #ColourFULL founder, and Bounczn founder

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram  |  Facebook

If there is anything COVID-19 has shown me, it is how selfish human beings are, particularly when it comes to toilet paper.

In a time like this, genuine generosity and kindness will make you stand out. Entrepreneurs need to network with the mantra of ‘give before you get’ and to add value instead of causing irritation during a pandemic.

There are many people who may not be coping, who may have lost loved ones, and we need to be mindful of that. We want to be considerate and respectful.

As a mentor and entrepreneur myself, I often see founders going into ‘survival mode’, networking left, right and centre, without pausing, thinking: ‘What can they give me?’ Instead, they should be asking themselves: ‘Am I truly adding value to this person’s world, and if so, how?’

It’s important to think about it also from the other person’s shoes and build empathy into your approach.

If, for example, you are an investor, you may get hounded by people wanting to ‘chat over coffee’ or ‘connect over Zoom’. This leaves people feeling used and abused. Because people are out to ‘get’ instead of building meaningful partnerships.

A much more valuable networking strategy is to ‘give before you get’ and to give without the expectation of receiving.

To make soft intros at a time where we can’t network, simply contact the people you already know and provide something of value, for example, a thought-provoking article, a white paper, a book, a free product, and ask them to introduce you to one person who they may think may need it.

Just one person, because being clear in your ask sets up an expectation, and if I only need to introduce you to one person, I am more likely to act on this as opposed to ‘anyone who may find this valuable’.

Kate Dinon

Character + Distinction managing director

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  Twitter

This unique situation we find ourselves in presents a great opportunity to make new connections.

Why? Because everyone is at home, attached to their screens and, for many, with more diary availability than normal. Right now you have a better chance of getting into that hard-to-get person’s calendar.

How? Use social media to your advantage, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn.

Develop a compelling point of view in your area of expertise and write about it. What do you believe is the future for your industry and how does it intersect with current world news. Engage, share your views, debate — just generally contribute to a meaningful conversation.

You will start to build a community of engaged peers which will, in turn, throw up opportunities.

The other, more direct way, is to pinpoint the people you’d like to get to know, seek out any mutual connections, and ask for an introduction. Please treat this process with sensitivity, though. Nobody owes you an intro.

Kindly ask your mutual connection if they feel comfortable to make an introduction, and provide an outline as to why you’d like the introduction. If your mutual connection is happy to make the introduction, do them the courtesy of sending them the draft copy for them to easily edit and forward.

Bonus points if, after being connected, you also close the loop, thanking the mutual connection for the introduction and briefly updating them on the outcome.

Hema Kangeson

InSpur founder and career coach for rising leaders

Website  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube

It is critical for entrepreneurs to think outside the box and utilise methods that will be sustainable based on their unique personality, style and values to effectively network during a pandemic.

To identify the most suitable method for you at this unchartered time, it is important to trial different methods over a time-boxed period and find the method that best works for you.

It will be the one that does not take too much of your energy or time, while providing the most benefit to what you need in your specific phase of your entrepreneurial journey.

As a consistent user of LinkedIn for the past two odd years, I make new connections through that social media professional platform weekly.

This is via connecting with someone who has liked my post, commented on my post, was introduced to me on my post or when I have commented on someone else’s post.

I have found this an easy way to connect and start a conversation in these times when we can’t meet people by accident at events.

I use this opening and an area to connect on and proactively move the conversation to DM and then on to Zoom or a phone call. This has worked for me time and again.

I have had a few soft introductions after these connections too.

Try this out. See if it works for you.

Terri Vinson

Synergie Skin founder and cosmetic chemist

Website  |  LinkedIn

Entrepreneurs inherently thrive on networking and are often highly driven by human connection. The pandemic presents a significant barrier to direct contact and I have reframed my thinking about social platform networking during this period.

I’ve never made a habit of randomly reaching out to people on LinkedIn and other social platforms. I understand that the new way of networking is in the virtual space but there are more respectful methods of connecting. I receive at least a dozen business cold calls or emails each day, often to my personal email address. Unless, by coincidence, you are looking for the skills they are offering, this is not the way to successfully network.

I have always tried to walk in my customer’s shoes and find that giving without expectation repeatedly comes back around, and often when you least expect it. As leaders and entrepreneurs, I believe that networking at this time should not be centred around what others can do for your business but rather what you as an entrepreneur can give to others. Write blogs to inspire, say yes to every media opportunity, and be open to sharing your experiences with other businesses with a view to giving rather than receiving.

I was recently honoured to be a guest speaker on a podcast for Melbourne Uni students on female entrepreneurs in science. This invitation resulted from a student stumbling upon a post on my LinkedIn account. Naturally, I accepted, as my values are so strongly aligned to both education and women in science. I had no expectations for this to be a huge networking opportunity for my business, but I simply felt good about doing it. Fast forward a week and we are looking for assistance in the quality control department of our lab. One of the podcast listeners was a keen student who applied for a position at Synergie after hearing about careers in science during the podcast. Who would have thought that a career opportunity could have resulted from this connection with our smart future scientists?

My advice is to ‘reverse network’ and use your social platforms to give back. As successful and fortunate entrepreneurs, it is our social and ethical responsibility to share our learnings and insights, and help others follow in our footsteps and walk into a brighter future.

Justine Alter

Transitioning Well director and psychologist

Website  |  LinkedIn

Social media may not be everyone’s first choice for connection, but there is no doubt that in a time of pandemic, staying in touch with colleagues and reaching out to connect with new people via these mediums can be a great way to continue to grow your network.

It’s so important to get creative and think outside the square in terms of running virtual events and attending them. In some ways, it is more convenient for many to attend online opportunities, and networking may even increase during this time due to saving time not having to commute to events.

This is also a good time to revisit what used to be done for networking: talking on the phone! It presents a great time to revisit contact lists and ‘little black books’ where you can reach out via the phone, an email or arrange a virtual catch-up.

This is a time to actively reach out to your immediate network to help you make new connections. Also, consider using platforms like LinkedIn.

Virtual events are becoming increasingly popular too with opportunities for breakout rooms. It is recommended you connect with people afterwards, using LinkedIn, which has recently added features to make follow-ups and capturing leads easier. Think about a sensible and logical introduction to ‘link’ with new people.

Also, consider joining Facebook Groups that are relevant to your industry and interests. This can be a great way to ‘accidentally’ meet or learn about new people that you can then think about touching base with via other mediums in future.

NOW READ: How to craft a perfectly worded email introduction that will open doors for your startup

NOW READ: Since when was networking not about selling?

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