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The legendary Peter Drucker once said, ‘business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation’.

A very profound and insightful statement at the time, his words ring especially true today.

In these Covid-19 times, many businesses need to innovate simply to survive – let alone thrive. Because if you don’t innovate, you stand still. And if you stand still, you eventually get overtaken and left behind.

One way thousands of companies around the world have embraced innovation during this pandemic is by adopting a hybrid work model.

But what exactly is a hybrid work model? And what challenges does it present for business networking?

What is hybrid work?

A hybrid work model is one that empowers employees to maintain a schedule that is split between time spent in the office and remote work from home.

Covid-19 has taught businesses that work no longer needs to be done in the office. Instead, employees are perfectly capable, and in many cases can actually be more productive, when they are working away from their designated desks.

Many organisations have survived the pandemic simply because of their decision to move away from the traditional business etiquette of working in the office. Adopting instead a hybrid work culture.

Now that this culture is seemingly here to stay, the question businesses should ask themselves is ‘how can we enhance the effectiveness of our hybrid work model’?

One such way is by adapting your business networking practices.

Why is networking important?

Connecting with other business professionals is very important. It is a way to build authority and trust amongst your peers, as well as stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in your industry.

If done correctly, it also enables you to source strategic partners and even long term customers. While for your own career advancement it can be a crucial practice in securing a future role. As more companies embrace a virtual work element, the best practice methods of establishing business connections are also starting to evolve.

Long gone are the days when the business traveller simply turns up to endless business meetings, or every single industry event going, just to get their face known.

Instead, with the future of business travel very much uncertain, the savviest business professionals, and the most astute of finance directors, have quickly realised you can more effectively network in a number of other ways through the use of technology and social media for instance. 

How to network effectively in a hybrid work model

To network more effectively in a hybrid work model you should consider the following:

1) Participate in online and physical events

In recent times a number of virtual event platforms have been launched. These not only allow companies to still run conferences, seminars, workshops and meetups, they would otherwise have had to postpone; they also allow business professionals to connect – when geographical distance and border restrictions do not allow them to do so.

Platforms like Butter.us, Hopin and Goldcast enable companies to run virtual events attended by up to 100,000 people. Allowing them to network over live video, exchange virtual business cards and set up individual meetings.

Virtual event platforms have an important advantage over video conferencing tools like Zoom in that they are specifically designed to cater to very large audiences. They also tend to feature things like separate keynote spaces, isolated workshop rooms and private meeting rooms, which makes your opportunities for interaction a lot easier.

However, despite the convenience of online events, business professionals shouldn’t shy away or underestimate the power of physical meetings. Showing up conveys a lot more than talking through a screen – through body language, eye contact and handshakes – to make a lasting impression and form the foundation of a good working relationship.

how to network

2) Reconnect with your current network

Expanding your network is great but it is also important to nurture your current professional relationships. Especially during the pandemic when everyone was social distancing, picking up the phone or emailing someone in your current network to bounce ideas off or discuss ideas may just give you the spark of inspiration you need. And on top of that, those you reconnect with are more likely to think of you should a suitable opportunity arise or a professional introduction arises for you.

Zoom of course is still an excellent way to have one-to-one conversations with people you might have connected with during these virtual events.

It is also a fantastic way to network with current work colleagues, especially those based overseas or in other parts of your country which is important to do to keep morale up and continue effective team collaboration.

3) Build your online presence

One of the most effective current methods of connecting with other corporate professionals is to build a prominent, professional, social media profile. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube enable you to post informative content, based on your thoughts and industry insights, that builds both your authority and follower connections.

This may seem impersonal but as long as your focus is on delivering true value to others, you are bound to grow your network to learn and benefit from others.

Mark Zuckerberg for instance has over 90 million followers on Facebook. Richard Branson has over 12.6 million followers on Twitter. You might not garner such a sizable audience for yourself, but you still can develop your own meaningful community of business professionals within your area of knowledge.

4) Be authentic and offer real value to those you network with

Having a social media profile is one thing. But it can be easy to get lost in the noise if you focus on churning a high volume of content rather than sharings that are authentic, human, helpful and interesting.

While funny gifs and cute photos of your cat might get lots of likes and shares, meaningful business content is what you should be aiming for.

Share your thoughts through a trending business-related hashtag. Post an observation about a future challenge in your industry such as this article about challenges travel managers face. Create a blog and send a link across all your platforms to the latest article you have written.

Or take a more personal approach, offer coaching or one-on-one sessions. A lot of times it is less about the tactical approach and more about creating human connections that matter. This bit by Sparktoro’s founder, Rand Fishkin, in his outreach tips article particularly resonated with me:

“This is a generosity battle. You’re fighting to see if you can be more long-term generous than everyone else in your network — giving them so much, so often, so freely, that as the inevitable returns accrue, you’ve lost track of how or why these lovely, wonderful people would offer such kindness. There is no attribution. No ratio of favors done to those returned. It is the best kind of battle: one with only winners.”

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Sparktoro

By offering real value like this to other industry professionals, you will not only gain more engaged followers but you are more likely to build meaningful and reliable connections that you can easily reach out to throughout your career.

5) Join Social Media Groups and Forums in your Industry: LinkedIn, Facebook

The likes of LinkedIn and Twitter provide an excellent opportunity to follow and engage with industry professionals around the world. People network for a variety of reasons – to pitch products, learn from others, get business funding to name a few.

If you are seeking to learn from others, joining groups and forums in a particular subject area is a quick way to tap into resources whether locally or internationally. Social media is also a nifty tool that enables you to reach out to your target market, strike a conversation and better understand their needs.

A great way to do this is by leaving well thought out comments as responses to what they posted to spark conversations, inspire discussions and knowledge sharing.

6)  Social meetups for coffee or team collaboration

team collaboration how to network

Social meetups with fellow professionals over coffee or a meal is an excellent way to network. In a far more relaxed setting than an office environment, you can drop the formalities and gain a real connection with your peers just through the power of words.

If you are a remote working team, getting together every once in a while at a unique location can also do wonders for productivity and team camaraderie. Being in the same place away from the barrier of computer screens allows for smoother and quicker communication, which can be especially useful when there are important project deadlines looming.

It’s a great way to exchange ideas, brainstorm, seek assistance or give advice. It’s also a fabulous way to get to know people in more depth and lay a foundation for collaboration on future projects.

The Future of Networking

The modern business world is moving at a phenomenal pace. With the development of innovative technologies and a significant change in attitudes, the way we work has changed forever.

But with change comes opportunity. And this is especially true for the way you connect with others.

Business networking no longer has to be solely done face-to-face. Whilst this is still undoubtedly the best way to form solid and lasting business relationships, meaningful connections can be initiated just by thinking about how you can do things differently.

There is an age-old saying – ‘it’s just business, not personal’ – which often gets bandied about when tough decisions are made.

But maybe, just maybe, when it comes to networking; the key to success is being personable in the way you build business relationships.

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