Is online networking the new normal?
Here at Athena, a women’s only networking organisation, a revolution of sorts has recently occurred. A new business model has emerged because of the pandemic and raises the question, ‘Is online networking the new normal?’ and what are the benefits and downsides vs traditional business networking.
As we head to the beach (perhaps, or maybe simply the back garden) for a bit of downtime this August, you might already be weighing up your options for business networking come the start of the new academic year. September is one of those times during the year when we tend to reflect on what’s working and look for alternatives when things aren’t going so well.
Benefits of online networking
I won’t go into reams of detail on the benefits of online networking because you can read July’s blog The 7 biggest benefits of online networking. Suffice to say it’s more accessible, efficient, and inclusive than the traditional face-to-face format, but there are drawbacks.
Downsides of online networking
Firstly, the biggest downside of online networking is there’s no cake!
Seriously though, the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it more difficult to build meaningful relationships with other members of your group. When you meet in person, you can see much more of the person’s demeanor and body language which adds so much more context to what they are saying.
Another issue you might encounter with online networking is Zoom (or equivalent) overwhelm. As it’s so easy to jump on a video call, there may a tendency to try to pack in a lot of online networking in your schedule. This can lead to fatigue, inability to remember who you met, where and what they do, and a general feeling of being a bit disconnected from your community which tends not to occur when you do face-to-face networking.
Visiting a wide range of groups is easier but it’s possible you can spread yourself too thin. If you only visit a group once or twice, it’s unlikely many people will remember you when they need your services.
So, is online networking the new normal?
Many traditionally face-to-face groups that moved online during lockdown 1 in March 2020 have been patiently waiting for the right time to revert to in-person networking. However, after surveying all the members, Athena Networking has taken a decision to adopt a predominantly online networking approach going forward. Our monthly lunchtime meetings will now be online and group leaders may offer other types of networking – such as informal coffee morning and networking strategy training as optional face-to-face gatherings. So, it seems that online networking is the new normal for Athena.
Online business support
As well as running women’s networking groups in Watford, Bushey, Rickmansworth, Harrow, and Kings Langley, I also offer an online business support group. This women’s only group, Step Up to Success, meets several times each month and includes mastermind spotlighting and brainstorming sessions that draw on the group’s expertise, a buddy system for accountability, monthly business skills workshops, and a closed Facebook group for support.
You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
Step Up to Success for female business owners provides mastermind groups as just one of the many business benefits of an online community for entrepreneurs. At only £24/m, it’s a great investment in your business’ future.