The COVID 19 pandemic has had a lasting, disruptive impact on the global economy. The largest in recent history, some economists say. It has seriously impacted our personal and professional lives and there is just no escaping the fact that it will be a long, long time before things will be normal. As work-places, businesses and economies open up again, people are coming to grips with the new normal. Online meetings, zoom calls, webinars have overnight replaced the personal meeting, face-to-face interactions and things transitioning from physical to virtual. With so many businesses and entrepreneurs quickly transitioning from face-to-face interactions to online networking has completely changed. Instead of meeting people at in-person events or venues, entrepreneurs are now needing to adapt to online networking.

One can gauge the immense impact of the pandemic from what Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella recently said that “we saw two years of digital transformation in two months,” indicating how aggressive companies are being with new technology. Collaborative approaches, bridging the physical gaps with technology, and leveraging technology to ensure business continuity is the new norm. COVID-19 has changed and will continue to change the world in ways we could never have imagined. Businesses need to rethink the role of outreach, networking and consider it to be a strategic asset that can make the difference in being successful in the “new norm” or struggling to survive.

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For entrepreneurs, businessmen, founders and professionals, it used to be easier to network earlier at events – attend, meet people, introduce yourself and later follow up to further cultivate the relationship. That has stopped now with the new normal in force and everything moving online. Especially for SME owner, continuing to foster relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and accessing potential clients or customers during the pandemic is of paramount importance.  Not tom mention routine communications with employees, clients, vendors, industry contacts, etc…

There are a few ways to maximize the benefit and effectively network in the new normal.

A Voice that is heard, Is a Voice that is remembered:

Speak up, voice your opinion, reach out, ask questions – do this either virtually or in person – and you are sure to be remembered. Moreover, it serves to sow seeds for future interactions. This can be extremely effective in forming new professional relationships. In the new normal, there are many free virtual forums and events being held regularly, with a special questions session being offered for anyone to voice them. Speaking during an event is an incredible opportunity for networking. Lead with an interesting question, clarify any points or doubts you have and folk will get interested in you, and are likely to follow up with you after the event.

Also, take that further – in case someone shares a useful or interesting insight during an event, take that as a reference point to start a conversation. Do ensure that you take contact details from everyone who attends, so you can follow up later..

Harness people’s Curiosity and make it advantageous for attendees:

Ideate, create and then host your own virtual networking event – why not invite people from your own professional network – who can benefit others by their own insights and experiences?  Ask them also to invite others from their own network, thereby increasing the number of participants for each businesses involved. Leverage your own social presence and spread the word for people to participate. By planning such an event, not only will you expand your network, but also you will gain the respect of other business owners who see your efforts to form connections beyond those that serve yourself and your business alone.

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Dig deep and do some research about how you can offer a collective & beneficial package to customers & clients. Partner with others who offer services that cater to your clients as well. Partnering with other companies for mutual benefits is the way forward in the new normal as it builds accountability, synergy and brings rewards for both the parties concerned. A partner’s community like this can help evolve a pro-active, business-oriented mindset that can help negate the effect of the pandemic to a great extent. Network effectively, creatively and build lasting, strong and resilient relationships.