Choose to Grow Value in Virtual Networks

How‘s your virtual networking going these days? Is it lots of LinkedIn connections and listservs without a variety of types of interaction? If you’re nodding yes, then maybe now is the time to reconsider what is really possible from your virtual networks.

Right now:

“We all know the typical ways to network: by attending industry mixers, business dinners, and conferences. But of course, none of those have been possible over the past few months, with so much of the world in quarantine. And even as various regions start to open up, large gatherings will be slow to come back, and long-distance travel will be limited.”

Is There More?

What do you want from your virtual networks? Would you rather be in shared purpose community networks to enrich, build or nurture trusted relationships around:

  • a shared mission or major project,
  • a set of challenges with external peers,
  • an emerging practice or innovation, or
  • communities of learning, practice, or interest?

If your answer is yes, here are some ideas for you to try out.

Connect without Borders:

Virtual networking expands options to convene peers without some of the limitations of geography (such as travel time and expense, inconvenient locations, etc.) Shifts in geographic contexts often reveal a healthy diversity in shared discussions, compelling resources or lessons learned and applied.  Conversely, a group that is geographically diverse may find a surprising number of shared experiences and solutions to common challenges.  Think about how you can take advantage of this change as you rethink your networking landscape.

Be Strategic

While virtual networking clearly isn’t the same as face to face, the fact is that we are still all in this virtual space together, and options to “connect” are too numerous to count. Instead of saying yes to many opportunities, be selective about the time and energy you want to spend on virtual network connections. Don’t over commit – if you are more purposeful about your choices of networks or communities, you can focus the quality of your energy and ideas with more consistency in fewer places.   Step back to think about where your time is strategically or developmentally best allocated and regroup. In this case, less really is more.

Deepen Experience While Connecting

Choose to spend your energies with virtual learning or roundtable groups that vary the types of networking experiences over time. Virtual events that are by design more interactive and participatory build safety and trust among members.  The greater the trust, the more forthcoming your colleagues in the group become. More voices venture to be heard.  Collaborative solutions are discovered. Relationships emerge.

Connect to What Matters Most to You

Choose targeted and topical communities that represent a group you can learn from and with.  A group such as a peer network or virtual roundtable offers a trusted and secure forum that can foster assistance, empathy, new contexts, or other valuable support.  Interact with a group like this often over time to deepen peer and learning connections.  Ensure that there are multiple ways to take part beyond the standard listserv or threaded conversation to benefit the most from and give more to these connections. Find issues or complex challenges that matter the most to you and seek ways to grow community.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with virtual networking activities over the last year or so, and how you’ve gotten the most value from them.