Globalization and digitalization have been the main drivers of online networking for quite a while now, but with the pandemic limiting personal contacts to the bare minimum online networking evolved from one important communication tool among others to our most essential instrument of business communication.
In 2020 our inboxes were full of invitations to online conferences, meetings, presentations and webinars. Many of us hosted and visited virtual exhibitions and extended our skill set in using online networking tools and our social media channels.
But what are the most efficient online networking strategies and how is networking going to evolve in the near and long-term future?
For World Online Networking Day, we talked to networking expert Julie Moussaron, Responsable Filiale France for CLR.
Julie, in 2020 how much of your networking activities happened primarily online compared to the time before the pandemic?
A LOT! I cannot give an exact figure, but actually, nearly everything happened online this year, meetings, seminars and new connections with people.
How much did the shift towards more and more online networking change your everyday work?
Actually, I find it very effective. I feel people took the shift quite easily, and, compared to meetings offline, things happen with more flexibility and therefore, just happen more.
The day to day work is very effective for me, as I can conveniently jump from one meeting to answering emails, attending a seminar and another meeting for example. It’s a lot of screens but I find it quite efficient.
What are pros and cons of online networking?
Online networking is very easy to organize and people are more willing to attribute a part of their time online, compared to face-to-face.
For the cons, you see less of the surroundings, the environment of the meeting: how is the factory of a customer and how is the atmosphere on site. Also, you cannot meet or run into someone unexpectedly. But I think there are lot more pros to online networking than cons!
Julie, what do you miss most about offline networking?
The events! Of course, a lot happens during events and the conviviality emerges there, when you share time, coffee or a drink with people. So yes, I would definitely say it is the warmth of the personal contact.
But again, as the meetings are quite easy to organize online, people are more willing to do multiple meetings, or take more time, so the conviviality can also emerge online. I often take some time, with my cup of tea, to have a chitchat with my clients before or after a meeting, as I would normally do in an offline meeting.
What are key takeaways you’ve learned from mainly networking online in 2020?
Networking is highly effective when it’s done on multiple channels. Most of the time this creates a very positive dynamic of exchanges on projects. I feel like, despite the pandemic, I work more efficiently than ever and that the connections with my clients have never been more dynamic! Now everyone is quite agile and willing to meet online.
What are your preferred online networking channels and tools?
I like LinkedIn very much, especially for initiating first contacts. It’s a non-invasive way to be present. It’s a great way to stay in contact and bring our products, expertise and services to the attention of our customers, especially during the lockdown, when people had more time to read articles or attend seminars.
When it comes to tools, I personally prefer Zoom, but some of my customers also use Teams. To work internally, like with the SFC, the French Cosmetic Society, I plan on establishing Slack, which is used already in my co-working space, and I find it very convenient for organizing communication channels and sharing documents.
Do you think there will be a long-term movement towards online networking even when the pandemic is over?
Yes, I think people will keep some of these new habits. Everyone misses the fun of meeting people face to face, but in the end, at least for the moment, everyone likes online meetings, especially for their convenience. Also, we have already spent almost nine months of this year with the pandemic and, unfortunately, the recent signs indicate the situation will still be complicated for a little longer.
Thank you for the interview, Julie.