How to network when you can’t leave the house

This January we moved to Singapore. We arrived just about the same time as the then unnamed Coronavirus, to images on the news of people in lockdown in China, and reports of schools closing in Hong Kong. (‘I hope that doesn’t happen here’, I thought). I set up my Singapore business and got out meeting people, to make new friends and connect with potential business contacts. I was so excited and loved every coffee meeting, lunch and tour of a co-working space.

Then in a flash it was over. My son’s school was closed due to a case of the virus in a parent. My world as I knew it stopped. I had to cancel all the meetings in my diary and start home schooling, which I am still doing 11 weeks later. (I confess that initially I did not take it well – this article sums it up nicely).

It slowly dawned on me that this wasn’t going to be a situation that changed quickly, and with talk of a ‘new normal’, I had to start thinking differently. I couldn’t just cancel everything and wait, I needed to continue with my networking, but in a different way. I had to own the situation and do everything possible to continue developing relationships without the face-to-face element.

Here are 14 tips for building relationships remotely:

1. Create a plan. Who do you want to connect with and why? Think about it, be considered and put a plan in place.

2. Be proactive. Make the first move. People are generally open to building their network but aren’t necessarily focused on it, or it might not be a priority for them right now. Be brave and put yourself out there.

3. Say yes to invitations and aim to have a wide range of opportunities to connect with people. I have been joining lots of webinars on a range of interesting topics.

4. Make time for it. It won’t happen on its own. You need to invest time in it, as you would with building relationships face-to-face. I have found it helpful to set myself specific goals like the number of virtual meetings I have and the number of new contacts I make in a week.

5. Have a mindset of generosity. Enter into interactions thinking about helping others, not what you can get from them. I had an e-mail recently from some one who was new to Singapore who wanted to sell a service to me. He messaged twice so I replied saying I wasn’t in the market for that service currently but as a fellow newcomer it would be great to connect anyway. He didn’t reply. I felt snubbed and like he was only interested if I would buy from him. (When I do need his service, he won’t be the first person I go to.)

6. Engage on social media. Being on social media doesn’t mean just having a profile, it’s important to be visible and social. Comment on people’s posts, ask them questions, start conversations and help others. Join groups and participate in them.

7. Invest in your existing relationships. Networking isn’t just about making new connections, it’s about deepening historic relationships. I have enjoyed using this time to have calls with old friends and clients.

8. Ask your current contacts for help. I put a note on my Facebook and LinkedIn asking if anyone knew anyone in Singapore and could make an intro for me. Starting off a new relationship through a mutual friend or contact is a great shortcut. Whatever your situation and reason for networking you can do the same, for example if you are looking for a new role.

9. Turn your camera on (whenever possible). Especially when it’s a new contact or an interactive webinar. It feels easier to build rapport when you can see people.

10. Have a great profile photo for the times you can’t put your camera on, which will be displayed instead of just your initials or name. Aim for friendly and professional.

11. Put your full name on your online ID, rather than initials or a nickname so in group situations people can easily see who you are. (Also check your kids haven’t changed it to something rude before you go into an important interview.)

12. Follow up one-to-one after group interactions and make it personal. I dropped a webinar host a note thanking her and also mentioned one of her points and expanded on it. It started an interesting conversation and we are now connected on LinkedIn.

13. Personalise LinkedIn connection requests, rather than using the generic one. Give people a reason to want to accept your invitation. Don’t make them feel like you are just firing out invitations.

14. Vary your platforms. I have been on some interesting Facebook Lives, as well as Webinars on Zoom, chats on MS Teams and I do a lot on WhatsApp, messaging, sending voice messages, voice calls and video calls. I have used lockdown to set up my Facebook Group and have been on Instagram more too. (Confession: Zoom is a favourite thanks to the ‘enhance my appearance’ feature.)

I was recently discussing remote networking with one of my new connections, (through a mutual contact) Emily Draycott-Jones, an HR Director here in Singapore. She is a self-professed ‘connector’ and says she can’t help herself from thinking which of her network would benefit from contacting with each other.

Her tips are to be open and honest about who you are, what you’re looking for and what help you need. Make sure you tell your story authentically so that it resonates and you genuinely connect with the person you’re speaking with. Listen to their story too and come to the conversation with an open heart about how you can help this person move forward. If you help others they will be more inclined to help you too, but don’t simply expect reciprocity – think about how to pay it forward in other ways.

While facilitating the personal branding workshop for General Assembly, Emily takes participants through branding goal setting and exercises to practice building an authentic elevator pitch. She believes firmly in the value of a ‘tribe’ and is co-founder of the ‘Breadwinning Expat Ladies of Singapore’.

It is going well so far. I have ‘met’ some great people, attended some really interesting webinars and got my first client for my Singapore business. I plan to continue with the remote networking in the ‘new normal’ but I am also looking forward to being able to meet for tea or wine again soon!

If you would like to connect please drop me a line 😊

My earlier blog post has some additional tips on networking and the principles are still the same, even if we are now working at a distance.

Photo by Izabelle Acheson on Unsplash

 

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