Stop Bemoaning the Past and Get Online

by Roselyn Poon

What comes to mind when you think of the word networking? Venturing out on a cold evening to spend a couple of hours in a room full of people you don’t really know, trying to spot the one person who could be a prospect, or dropping into a wine bar for drinks with a group of fun sociable types you would like to know better? I believe that networking is any situation where people get together with the prospect of meeting others. This definition automatically opens a world of opportunities to socialize, meet new people, make new business contacts, meet others who are interested in the same sports and hobbies as you, and even reacquaint with old friends. It doesn’t have to be strictly business.

Regardless of how you define networking, meeting new people is no longer a casual, accidental happening. Sadly, it is now a deliberate action on our behalf. We can no longer hide behind the “open invitation.” So, what do we do now? We get over ourselves and join the online community. Being shy or apprehensive is perfectly fine; in fact, online networking may be easier for you in this circumstance. One thing is for sure, you don’t have to be overly concerned about wearing the sharpest suit in town or the latest designer outfit. I can attest to the last statement, as many of Bunker’s clients have slowed down their shopping because they aren’t going out or attending conventions and conferences.

Rather than bemoan about the good old days when you could drop into a free networking event in one of our local restaurants, I urge you to take up the challenge of online networking. We don’t know how long it will be before we can enjoy the atmosphere of mixing with real people; so you may as well get started now. It could be that online networking is the way of the future, just as shopping online is quickly replacing our malls and online dating has replaced clubs and pubs.

Here are a few tips that might help you along the way:

1. I have found that setting networking goals works best for me. My goals are broken up by my intention: my passion is photography, so I am always on the lookout for photographers I can learn from. Bunker and I own a couture fashion company, so finding events and now online events where fashion conscious women meet is key. I write and speak about living younger longer, hence online groups that focus on longevity and cellular health are my go-to places to network with like-minded people.

2. Focus on your networking intentions and accept the fact that not one single online group will give you everything you are looking for. Be patient, as it could take quite a few trials before you find the right fit; but hey, the great thing about online networking is that you can check out a dozen different groups in one evening, whereas before COVID-19, it took weeks and a lot of time and effort.

3. Take it easy when you join a new online group and, dare I say it, be a little cautious about revealing too much personal information. I think you have to meet someone three or four times before you can really begin to know who you are talking to.

4. I strongly suggest that you turn up consistently for a while when you find a group that resonates with you. Give yourself, and the others in the group, a chance to get to know each other.

5. Remember, we are talking about building relationships, not selling. You never liked it when someone you had just met started selling you on their latest and greatest photocopier, and it is no different with online meetings.

6. If you have joined a video online group, remember to look into your camera, have the light in front of you rather than behind and wear clothing that, should you leave your chair for a moment, has you covered.

7. Set a goal to meet one or two new people each week and try being genuinely interested in them. You never know who they know, which is part of the adventure of meeting new people.

8. Here are a few places to get you started—please check them out thoroughly before jumping in:
• Google: Search for groups that you are interested in or just looking for inspiration.
• Some of the Meetup groups have gone online during the lockdown, so don’t just write it off as an in-person event.
• Video Meetings: Visit Zoom, Discord, Google Meet, Google Hangouts.
• Skype Meet Now: Casual video connections
• FaceTime: Casual video
• Facebook Groups: Coming soon and similar to Zoom.