Building Your Network In A Pandemic

WithIt director Amy Van Dorp on how to connect in a time of social distancing

Once upon a time, we built our network by attending markets, events, and conferences. Do you remember the excitement of meeting fellow bloggers and designers you follow on social media? It is one of the important benefits of attending High Point Market.

The connections we build are valuable and can be a tremendous asset for gaining new business opportunities. A McKinsey study says that 50% of a company’s business capital is in its relational assets and 75% of an individual's capital is their network. Having the right network can actually save you time and money.

Unfortunately, the High Point Market social experience that we enjoy will not be present this year. The seminar schedule has been dialed back, and there will be no book signings, breakfasts, and networking meet-ups. Developing your network will not be as simple as attending events. How, then, can we build and nurture our network?

Take the time to make some calls

For busy business owners, this may seem like a function that can be at the bottom of your list. However, when you recognize it as a strategic asset, it’s easy to see it needs to be a priority. Block an hour on your calendar every week for building relationships. Take that hour for a phone call to someone you have connected with during a past market. Ask how their business is and offer a listening ear. Suggest solutions or encouragement when possible. These are the functions of your network that you will be able to draw upon later.

Join industry associations

You should be involved with one or more groups within your profession and additional groups locally. These organizations will supply industry knowledge and connections with direct benefit to your business. Be intentional about the ones you join, and make the most of them by becoming as involved as you can.

Take advantage of virtual events

Virtual conferences and events can be time consuming and impersonal, so be intentional with your time and find events that let you connect with others face to face – even if that is on Zoom. Connecting during happy hour sets the stage for a follow up phone call.

There are also virtual events which feature networking. WithIt, the women’s leadership development network for the home and furnishings industry that I work with, offers speed networking during our virtual events using the Hopin platform. These five-minute meetings allow quick connections to meet new people and can relieve some of the social anxiety around making small talk.

Use social media

During quarantine, social media has become even more important, offering a quick way to relate. The downside has become the noise on large platforms which makes it more of a rabbit hole. Choose instead to become part of a smaller group or join a closed platform.

While it clearly isn’t networking, spending an hour on Linkedin commenting on posts and requesting connections with people who interest you can be considered pre-work for meeting new people virtually. Remember that commenting on social media can never replace a phone call for truly building relationships.

Don’t miss out on the benefits of having a vibrant network during the pandemic. Be intentional with your time and use the virtual tools available. When we can get together again, we will all be excited to meet our new connections in person.

About Amy Van Dorp

Over her 25-year career, Amy has found every job through her network. She currently serves as Executive Director of WithIt, a women’s leadership development network for the home furnishings industry. You can learn more about WithIt networking events at www.withit.org/withit-events.aspx – we look forward to meeting you at our next event!