Is hybrid networking the way forward?
We’ve all heard of hybrid working, but now it seems as if hybrid networking is the latest post-Covid phrase to be used.
What do I mean by hybrid networking? It’s when a person undertakes a mixture of face-to-face and online business networking groups and/or meetings. And in the light of current restrictions, and of course, people getting back to the idea of meeting up again in larger groups, it’s probably a very sensible option.
Convenience v’s personal contact
In March/April 2020, online networking took precedence and for the last 15 months, we have enjoyed the easier option of logging on to join our fellow networkers. And whilst technology allowed us the opportunity to dip in and out of networking at will and make connections with people from all over the country/world, who normally we may not have ever met – not everyone has been a super fan. Many of my colleagues have shunned Zoom and its virtual counterparts and chosen to pause/ignore their networking until they can meet people properly again.
On the other hand, I was quick to embrace online networking. I enjoyed the time it saved, the lack of travelling, not paying for breakfast/lunch that I don’t really want, and of course the ability to avoid being stuck in close proximity with someone who just wants to talk at me and/or sell to me.
The online option has provided me with lots of advantages – convenience probably being the main one and then, of course, there is an opportunity to be less concerned by what you wear. But now with restrictions being lifted, more and more groups are offering a dazzling array of new options, and I find myself faced with deciding the best way forward.
Embrace the options
One of my regular groups, who meet fortnightly, will be having one face-to-face event and one online meeting every month. This suits me perfectly and I am already looking forward to making more personal connections and being able to read body language at the face-to-face events. And it seems as if other business networking groups are following similar patterns.
But like anything business-related, you need to find what works for you. You might be reluctant to go back to big groups of people, or you might be chomping at the bit for some personal contact. As always, the key to effective networking is making genuine connections with other members of the group and giving them the chance to know, like, and trust you. This is true for whatever form of networking you engage in. And whether this is done face to face or online, or a mixture of the two, only you can decide!
And it seems that it’s not just networking that is facing change. A friend of mine works in the beleaguered events industry and has spent lots of time recently putting together plans for forthcoming hybrid events. This is an event where you connect a physical and virtual event together. So, for example, you might screen your content from a physical venue to your virtual venue and the audience interacts with it via Q&A/polling software or a live chat facility. This enables both audiences to connect and engage with each other. Whilst still at the planning stage, she and many other event professionals, remain confident that this is the way forward.
The future is in our hands
With technological advancements and a very different mindset, it seems as if the future success of meetings, networking, and other business events is very much in our hands.