As lockdowns continue in NSW, Victoria and parts of Queensland, we are seeing interest in our online networking continue to rise as more and more people don’t want lockdown to stop their business momentum.
Online networking is all about traction – keeping networking going, continuing to make new contacts and strengthen relationships with existing ones. If the lockdown has shown us anything, it’s to reinforce the fact we all need other people. Your zoom screen is the perfect way to continue to build relationships and connections in lockdown.
I have heard some ‘negative nellies’, who say “You can’t build real relationships on a screen” – to which I have one word in reply – “Tinder”. I’m sure I’m not alone in knowing plenty of people in real and solid relationships that started online. Online networking is the business equivalent to online dating – you can make very real, strong and long-lasting relationships. As a member of our Melbourne Online hub said to me recently, “Online networking is like the kindling on a fire – if you nurture it, it grows into the flame of a strong and lasting connection.”
At Fresh, we have become the experts in online networking – we spotted very early on the potential for online. We quickly learned the pitfalls to avoid and how to keep meetings fresh, engaging and beneficial for members.
What makes for great online networking?
So, what was it that we learned, and what makes Fresh online networking work – for our members and guests?
Interactive meetings – we quickly realised that you can’t run an online meeting in exactly the same way as a face to face one. You can’t just have people sitting and listening for an hour, they need opportunities to connect, discuss, ask questions and engage.
Changing it up – we created four different agendas, to counteract ‘zoom fatigue’ and keep meetings stimulating and interesting. We have breakout rooms to encourage discussion and participation. We have discussions on key business topics. Our ‘Let’s Connect’ segment ensures everyone makes new connections and our ‘Ask Fresh’ session has found solutions to a heap of business challenges.
Meetings with personality – we encourage people to be people. We’re relational, not transactional, so we include plenty of segments where people get the chance to show their unique personalities, rather than simply forcing referrals.
Breadth of contacts – online removes all geographic barriers, so there’s no point in artificially recreating them. We want our members to visit as many hubs and meet as wide a range of connections as possible. Online offers opportunities to make connections we simply wouldn’t have had before.
What does online mean for our members?
The way we run online networking, and the lessons we’ve learned mean that 30% of our members now prefer online networking. So what is it they love? Here’s what they tell us:
Sea change/tree change – some of our members have used the lockdown to make temporary or permanent changes to their work location. I spend almost half my time in my home town of Brisbane, we have members based all around Australia and even overseas. With online, we can network from wherever we choose to be.
Visibility – out of sight is out of mind, but online networking helps them stay in front of their connections, which keeps the referrals flowing.
New connections – online makes it easier for more people to attend, both members and visitors. My goal is for everybody to walk away from every meeting with one new connection – and we’re smashing it.
Personal and professional development – online makes learning easier than ever, and at Fresh we run a program of webinars for knowledge, health and wellbeing, and the Fresh Academy for networking skills.
Support – our Melbourne members told us that the support and structure of attending online meetings was invaluable in those early, confused days of lockdown. Sydney and Brisbane are now finding the same.
We all know that lockdown is tough – but behind every cloud is a silver lining, and for Fresh it’s been online networking. It’s expanded our horizons and our membership, created opportunities for our members that they never would have thought possible, and shown us a whole new way of collaborating, creating connections and supporting each other’s businesses. It’s helped us to put lockdown into perspective and take control in a situation where so much else is out of our control.
So, no matter where you are located, come and join us and let’s network our way through lockdown together.