What does the future hold for networking and meetups?
A while ago, in the heat of the pandemic, I was part of a seminar discussing possibilities that lie ahead for networking. We uncovered what was bound to change, what couldn’t, and discussed revolutionary technology we had encountered along our lines of work that we believe would be the cornerstone of networking in the years to come. One thing’s for sure, the nature of networking is destined to be online and remote, with the virtual culture accelerated by the pandemic showing networkers everywhere that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Read on for the full scoop, and what you should be keeping an eye out for in modern networking.
Why networking will gain increased importance in the near future
Over the past 3 years or so, no doubt helped by the pandemic, I’ve seen a sharp increase in the popularity of remote or work-from-home models. In fact, CNBC reports that there will be more than 36 million remote workers in the US by 2025, which represents an 87% rise compared to the pre-pandemic situation.
Remote employment restricts opportunities for natural (IRL) networking and can lead to isolation and loneliness as many lack the social outlet that a typical office affords. With more and more people working remotely, there will be an increased need for networking as professionals strive to stay connected to the rest of the world.
Where the future of networking lies:
- Swipe-style business networking apps
Swipe-style dating apps are nothing new in today’s world. However, the same concept is now being replicated across business management relationship platforms as well, and it’s only bound to gain momentum by the day.
We are certain to see an increase in remote networking platforms that incorporate the following features:
- Swipe decks
- Professional profile designs
- Private chat
- Meet up options
2. Demographic-specific networking meetups
Nowadays, many are reliant upon a smart networking platform to set up tailor-made events that target specific audiences. I’ve witnessed or been a part of demographic-specific meetups like:
- Conferences targeting minority-owned businesses
- Women-only seminars
- Networking meetups for young industrialists
And the list goes on and on. Such dedicated meet-ups are gaining traction as they bring birds of the same feather together, add context, and generally save time in a world devoid of it and at a time when networkers prefer to cut right to the chase.
3. Digital handshakes in the post-Covid era
As we evolve towards the dematerialisation and contactless era, physical business cards are to my shock still being used in the world. It was as recently as in mid of March 2022 and I was handed over a physical business card during a private meeting. I haven’t the slightest clue where it is now, just like the majority of other professionals.
With social distancing enforcements in the height of the pandemic, digital business cards soared into popularity as the new digital handshake, and they are bound to stick around long after because these are:
- Safe and contactless
- A lot more durable than paper
- Inexpensive and more efficient
4. Increased focus on internal networking
The coronavirus has also shifted focus to internal business networks, teaching us to first look within before exploring opportunities as companies became cut off from each other for a time. These types of networks entail:
- Colleagues working in the same office
- Co-workers in different branches
- Friends and associates of workmates, etc.
Employees within the same company now find advice, new opportunities, and even mentors from within their internal networks. It’s a pattern that looks set to continue, given that 70% of jobs never make it to the public limelight, but are instead shared internally, CNBC reports.
5. Smart networking will become immensely popular
Networkers are now leveraging the power of modern technology to tackle traditional networking challenges in the following ways:
- Contact exchange solutions: These are replacing traditional business cards with more durable & wireless profile exchange alternatives
- Smart notes: Networkers use digital notepads to never forget the who, when & where of it all.
- Multi-profile features: Now networkers create various profiles to share with specific audiences, and switch between these for social and professional occasions
Modern efficient contact management tools often incorporate all this into one app, ensuring convenient, on-the-go smart networking.
6. More emphasis on virtual meetups & events
The pandemic coupled with the soar in remote work only means one thing: virtual meetups & events will gain more importance. These continue to be popular as they meet people where they are and break down prohibitive barriers, including:
- A lack of means
- An absence of time
- Travel inconveniences
Networkers are also bound to use virtual meeting scheduling tools to not only plan & send out invites from one place without having to craft countless emails but also manage their entire events from the convenience of a single app.
7. Surge of AI-fueled networking experiences
When I say artificial intelligence, you might be picturing sentient robots striking up candid conversations with prospects over coffee. While we’re not there yet, AI is set to aid networking in the following ways.
- An AI-powered efficient contact management tool will help to keep contacts up to date.
- Machine learning analytics will analyze connections & identify strong networking opportunities. Kind of like predicting who you’re most likely to hit it off with.
- Conversational bots & virtual agents may soon take over as the frontline of network marketing
8. Data-driven networking will be crucial
CRMs are fairly commonplace for businesses these days. However, there’s set to be a transformation in how companies use these tools for networking purposes, and in particular, data-driven networking.
In conjunction with a professional relationships management tool to automate data entry & alleviate errors, businesses will use CRMs to import contacts & track important PII and data, thereby enabling personalization and simple follow-up initiatives with new connections.
In-person meetings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon
Digital technology and virtual meetups are not meant to replace in-person meetings entirely. Truth be told, I reckon these will go hand in hand rather than one substituting the other. We’ll definitely see a bump in virtual and online networking, but one cannot simply overlook the intangible benefits of in-person networking, which tends to be more fulfilling and effective. That said, networking will continue to transform as technology evolves, and we are bound to see more exciting new options in the way people connect and meet up. What predictions do you have for the future of business networking? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so get in touch.
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