Online business networking- 6 months on

Online business networking – reality of the “new normal”

We are rapidly approaching our 6th online business networking event! So, it seemed a good juncture to assess what has changed and what we have learnt in our experience of moving from 10 years of high quality face to face business networking events to online business networking events.

Why stop and reflect about online business networking events?

Well it has been a whirlwind, flying by the seat of our pants mission for these last 6 months. We were ready back in February for the “Lockdown” which meant that within 3 days we could be ready to support our members, and transition what should have been our face to face March event to an online business networking event.

Looking back it was clear that many members were shell shocked. Some were to embarking on such an uphill enormous opportunity that their diary simply did not allow them to transition with us into this online business networking world.

Some sadly, saw no point in ever trying to participate in online business networking events as they saw no possible way their business would survive the devastating impact of COVID.

However – we have attracted new visitors AND members to our online business networking events. Many eager to start their online business networking journey with a group that cares, and a host that IS 100% COMMITTED to them and success in their online business networking journey.

Lockdown learnings for online business networking.

Those first online business networking event in March, April and May had an almost eerie feel to them. In March, we tore up the rule book and built our usual tables in a way that was the opposite of how we usually operate. We seated perceived “competitors” together. We shared insights, advice and information – almost to overload. We realised pretty quickly that online business networking events just once a month would not cut it. So in spite of being advised to “mothball” – we took the decision to  deliver online business networking gatherings, seminars, catch ups on an almost daily basis.

Our online business networking format evolved constantly, with open Q&A sessions, seminars, and general “grab a brew and chat” sessions. Having tested many, and settled on the ZOOM platform we were really delighted to see them step up their security even through an enormous demand cure, so that online business networking events could be help at scale, with safety and security in mind.

The most interesting and revealing part of all those early Zoom online business networking events was how quickly people adapted to using the tech and how the quality of the conversations and connections skyrocketed at our online business networking events.

As much as we always pride ourselves on building the best possible tables and breakout room for a event we never really appreciated how a 6 foot table could still be a barrier to deepening those connection at a face to face event. n it has been a real eye opener to others to hear from long standing members of the online business networking group how much easier higher quality and deeper the conversations a when online.

As someone recently explained

“everyone is the same size. Any experience based or scale of business based deferring that may consciously or subconsciously have happened before has gone.  Everyone seems to have adopted good etiquette online; there are fewer interruptions; less domination of the conversation; a general acceptance of everyone and “we are all in this together”; we ALL talk to each other at the online business networking event – not just the 2 people either side of us; and the ease with which people can now have those all important 121 meeting following an online business networking event has transformed and accelerated  the path to “Know like and trust.”

Future online business networking events – will we ever go back?

It seems to me that there should never be a simple let’s just go back to how things used to be. There have been so many positive learning by taking our business networking events online that we would be foolhardy to just revert back to how we used to do things.

For me I believe our network will be best served bye proceeding with a hybrid approach. One whereby we continue to

  • have our online business networking events once a month
  • have our main event educational seminars
  • provide a platform in between main events for a members to come together I small groups
  • increase the opportunities for a members to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise at a member only seminars
  • provide ad hoc opportunities for socially distance small group face to face networking beat a walk in the park in a round of golf or some other mini adventure
  • support the members to have those all important 121 in a more dynamic and proactive way

For sure, online business networking is here to stay. For sure many people do still want to network with people in the local environment. For sure online business networking can facilitate connections between people that lives further afield but there has not been the explosive growth in that that many may have thought would happen.

That’s why at the Business Network we are focussed on supporting the business community across Cheshire, North Wales, Wirral now and for the future – whatever that future looks like.

6 months on our online business networking events get bigger, better and together we are stronger.

If you need a supportive proactive group to support you through these times – book a call and lets see how we can help!

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