Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 switched to running online networking events in May this year due to the social distancing challenges thrown up by the pandemic.
Whilst our events have been reasonably well attended during the restrictive period, we have noticed that some people have expressed fears and concerns about attending virtual events. It may be a fear of using technological systems or not being sure of how to start a conversation once online. Perhaps they have attended one event and think they will all be the same. It could simply be that time is tight due to additional responsibilities. Others simply suck in their lips and express that virtual networking isn’t for them.
We are sure that there are other reasons people may be avoiding online networking but we wanted to try and address some of these concerns and encourage you to make the most of a really useful tool that could help you and your business through the pandemic.

What does 2020 virtual networking look like?

You may have been involved in Microsoft Teams meetings or Zoom sessions in the past or you may have attended a training webinar online, either live or pre-recorded. Virtual networking runs in a similar fashion to this. You register for the session and log on at the scheduled time. You can use your laptop, desktop computer, your phone or a tablet. Any of these devices will work.
Your camera will be turned on, but your microphone will be muted. You will enter into a virtual room of attendees, most of the time everyone just unmutes themselves to say a quick hello to anyone they know in the room and following a brief period of organisation you will be relocated to another smaller room with up to 6 visitors.
During this session you will chat amongst yourselves about your business and any other topics that may be raised. We always try to make sure that each room has a facilitator so that everyone gets a chance to introduce themselves and talk about their business. It also helps when the conversation becomes too one sided as the facilitators can politely intervene and keep the conversation moving along. These sessions are usually left to run for between 20 – 30 minutes to allow everyone a chance to get involved.
Depending on whether you are attending our breakfast meeting or our Just Networking meetings, what happens next will vary but the agenda is provided beforehand and you will either be brought back into the main presentation room or transferred to another networking room to meet a new group of businesses.

What do people talk about?

Everything! From how well business is doing to the things that are challenging them. These sessions tend to be more like peer support groups where you are learning about a new business owner you didn’t know or discovering a new strategy to help you overcome an issue you have been struggling with. You may find yourself in a room with a local business support mentor from D2N2 who has a wealth of information about grants and business support on offer or you may be able to help a business owner with a challenge they have. It’s no different to our face to face breakfast meetings – you will just have to cook your own full English 🙂
There are some people who would argue that networking is all about getting as many business cards out to as many people as possible without taking the time to learn about the people they are handing them to – this is often a waste of time for both parties!
Surely, the point of networking is about building new relationships and this can take time to develop. We prefer to buy from people that we have gotten to know and therefore like and trust. Virtual networking really helps with this process as the conversations are easier to have without all of the noise from a busy room. You begin to learn so much more about the people you are talking to and as a result are able to determine whether the people in the room need the services you provide. People are also more likely to remember you and pass your details to their contacts as the interactions are richer.

Here to support you

During the last six months or so, here at 2020 we have seen the best in people, our businesses have been making the effort to provide support and encouragement to each other, whether that has been through positive comments, sharing knowledge or actively looking to purchase from local suppliers to help everyone through this difficult time. We have become each other’s biggest champions and we would really like to extend this positivity to as many more people as possible.
One visitor recently sent us the following feedback:

‘Thank you for today, this is my 3rd networking event so I am a novice (the others weren’t M&A 2020) and I would like to say that I enjoyed it the most due to its professionalism, helpfulness and easiness of speaking to people in the rooms. Everyone was friendly.’

Our online meetings have been provided free of charge during the pandemic as we understand the financial difficulties that many businesses are facing. We have opened our meetings up to both members and guests to provide as much exposure as possible for everyone. Virtual networking provides so many benefits that it would be crazy not to get yourself involved.
Many of us are busier than ever due to carrying an extra workload with staff on furlough or additional responsibilities piled on due to changing circumstances, however, we encourage you to make at least one hour for yourself a month to get involved and connect to other business owners, you may never know what hidden gems could be waiting here for you. Even if you’re feeling really low and worrying about the future, our meetings may provide the encouragement that helps you get through the months ahead.
Book onto one of the sessions here

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