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What Is The Future Of Networking In The Post-Pandemic Business World?

In a world that appears dominated by disagreement, one thing most business owners can agree about is Zoom fatigue.

Video calls for client meetings and department updates are still OK, but in my experience, the numbers attending online networking meetings are falling. Business owners would be permitted to express a view that fatigue extended beyond just Zoom.

My sense is that the relaxation of lockdown, so called freedom day, was scheduled to butt-up against the school holidays. Business activity tends to be quieter in August anyway. SMEs leaders and entrepreneurs would do well to step back now if they can and recharge their batteries ready for September. So, what is the future for networking and business development come the Autumn?

Networking from Autumn onwards

Cleverer people than me have been unable to predict the path of this pandemic. But let’s assume no more ‘variant curved balls’ and that nearly all over 18s are double jabbed by September. There is an argument that networking in the room (or as we knew it, will restart in earnest).

Is networking pre-pandemic really what people want to return to?

While network meeting organisers will want us back in our droves, will we heed the call? Here are some things to consider:

  • Confidence is an individual trait. Returning to a room full of people will appeal to people in their own time, not all at the same time.
  • Many businesses have failed in the pandemic, while many have also been created. It’s uncertain how this may affect demand for networking.
  • My sense is that people are more careful with their out-of-work time now. I wonder if business owners, particularly professionals, will accept a 7a.m. start rather than making networking part of their working day.

Flexibility seems to be the watchword; mixing up in-person with virtual meetings. Similarly, I see little future for the ‘lock-out’ membership model, in favour of a pay-as-you go networking service. Even before the pandemic I was not aware of a group that was at capacity to make the lock-out premium value for money. Finally, most confident and able business owners view the lock-out model as an inhibitor to collaboration; it’s not a selling point for them.

There is still life in the old networking dog!

In reality, of course, networking as a business development tool will survive; it just needs to adapt. Evidence of this is the SME entrepreneur, Nigel Botterill. He has launched recently the Entrepreneurs Circle Local Networking Meeting.  Billed as brand new face-to-face networking and business growth events, the meetings focus on developing relationships and accessing cutting edge marketing content. Meetings are rolling out nationally.

As I write business sentiment remains largely positive, let’s hope it stays that way. In the meantime, rest if you can over the summer and I look forward to seeing you at a networking event in September.

Networking meetings in Hampshire

If you are considering re-visiting networking in the Autumn, here are some local meeting groups in the NE Hampshire area:

BNI Hampshire

Fleet for Business

Basingstoke Business Club

ONLE

Omni Networking

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