Originally published in the Worcester Telegram August 30, 2020 – https://www.telegram.com/news/20200830/opinion—chamber-corner-discovering-virtual-networking
If you are managing a business today, you are facing occupancy limits, restrictions on face-to-face interactions, and regulations your customers and employees are getting accustomed to.
Massachusetts has even laid out new office space safety standards that employers and employees can reference. Technology that was convenient in January — e-commerce tech and communication tech in particular — has now become necessary to navigate a workday.
We are always learning and adapting; however, as a business community we have faced a high octane of learning and adapting these past six months. These lessons learned will help us to be more efficient, safer and more customer-focused moving forward.
There are many levels in a place of business: executive, customer service, marketing and sales are some just to name a few. All levels play an important role, some to keep products and services moving and current, some to document productivity, some to help customers with questions, comments and concerns, and some to sell the products and goods a business provides.
All these roles have had to use the virtual world to relay information, attend meetings and stay in communication with staff. While in house meetings and the relaying of information seem to be moving along, sales and networking, the key to making and maintaining business relationships is suffering.
Networking plays an important role in relaying information in real time, and in most cases problem solving. What happens when you need to relearn everything you thought you knew? The past few months have forced many to rethink and relearn how they carry out even basic daily tasks and adapt and think of new ways to build relationships virtually. Many of us have been asking, how do you network virtually to maintain and make new connections?
The Auburn Chamber of Commerce, known for many networking events and meet-ups within the business community, has moved to a virtual networking platform: same events, different outlet. The new platform adapts to the immediate need of businesses and business people.
Some virtual events have a portion of the meeting where attendees separate into a breakout room, this is where attendees are paired up with a couple or few other attendees to talk and network among themselves for a few minutes, other virtual events ask relevant questions for all to answer one at a time for a few minutes. We have been learning new networking platforms and now we must learn how to take full advantage of these new virtual spaces.
As business people, colleagues and peers, we need to recognize that everyone has a different comfort level with these virtual technologies. Most importantly, we need to respect these concerns and boundaries. “Patience is a virtue” has never been as applicable as it is today.
We would like to offer you some advice in making new connections virtually and safely. The next virtual event you log into see if there is someone you know, and find a couple you may not know. Send this group of people a chat and let them know what your business does, clients you are looking to attract, and perhaps this new group could meet in other virtual meeting space in the next few weeks.
As virtual meetings can be awkward, so can in-person meetings. Another way is to connect on the Chamber Member portal, where you can share your upcoming events, job openings, hiring, and other social networking you want to share with the chamber member community. We must be ready to adapt and accept this new outlet of making business connections.