The Five Guiding Principles of Running an (Online) Networking Meeting

By Dr. John G. Duesler, Jr., President Kaze Aerial Production 215-913-0569 / jgd@kazeaerial.com

In business, networking is an indispensable part of success.  And the numbers bear this out.  

  • 80% of professionals believe that career success can be elevated through professional networking. (Source: LinkedIn Newsroom)
  • At least 70% of people got their current job through networking. (Source: PayScale)
  • Networking alone is responsible for filling as many as 85% of all jobs.  (Source: Hubspot)
  • Over 80 million small businesses worldwide use Facebook Pages. (Source: Facebook)

Perhaps, such numbers are why, once COVID-19 fundamentally changed who we interact with clients and colleagues, online networking groups exploded.  Yet, most business workers do NOT like networking online.  Just look at the facts.

  • As many as 84% of participants surveyed prefer in-person communication and meetings compared to other formats.
  • 95% of people agree that better business relationships are built through face-to-face meetings.  (Source: HubSpot)
  • Statistics on communication reveal that 72% of networks are influenced not only on appearance but handshake as well. (Source: Great Business Schools)
  • 20% prefer digital communication over other forms.  (Source: Great Business Schools) 

Regardless of these opinions, the reality of today’s workplace is increasingly transitioning to remote workers, which means online networking will become a greater and greater part of our business success.

Towards that end, networking groups must adapt to these new workplace dynamics to be successful and maintain a vibrant membership.  But how?  Here are five guiding principles that can ensure your (online) networking meeting stays on track.

Rally the Group Behind a Common Theme

At a time when we are all longing for the chaos and confusion of the world to subside, defining your Networking tribe is as essential as ever.  Whether based on geography, demographic, a particular industry, or even entrepreneur vs. C-Suite vs. middle management…the glue that holds your networking group and meeting together is the commonality binding each and every one of your networking group together.  

Keep Individual Pitches to less than 60 Seconds

Wow…we so want people to know about our business.  We love to talk about how we can help solve your most pressing problems.  Our business has wide applications from which everyone can benefit.  Now we must condense all that into less than one minute…or have a moderator that invokes that discipline in your individual group members.  Why?  Rambling on loses respect.  People’s attention wanders after 40 seconds.  And we have so many darn people who want to talk.  

Spotlight One or Two Businesses per Session

There is so much talent in your networking group, and you want to emphasize that.  Well…do it then!  With five-minute member spotlight sessions, where, each week, you allow one or two members of your group to do a deep dive into their business.  Slides, videos, product samples…this is a time when that spotlight member can use whatever tools they want to say, “Hey…I’m doing something really cool.  You should check it out!”  

Include one Macro-element in Your Meeting 

The elevator pitches are done.  The spotlight businesses have made their appeal.  Now what?  Back off buddy!  Look at a wider issue that affects each and everyone of the members of your group.  Perhaps there is an industry news story that can be discussed.  Maybe a case study in success.  How about the launch of a new app that your members can find useful?  Whatever it is, include it in your meeting, since it will ensure there is at least ONE element of the meeting your members can gain from.  

Combine Active Recruitment with Incentives to Attract New Members

You have a great networking group, and you know it.  So how do you attract new people to your group?  LinkedIn provide a deep bench of like-minded people that you can easily identify as potential group members.  But then what?  How do you hook these people to get them to the first meeting?  Well…give them a small perk to get to that first meeting.  A $5 coffee card.  An Amazon Credit.  A free message donated by one of your members….whatever it is…raffle it off to one of the first-timers in your group.
Adapt or die.  Not just the story of evolution, but of business as well.  Clearly networking must be an indispensable part of your business operations and these guiding principles listed above can help you adapt to these new business dynamics.  A word of caution, however.  If the content of your networking meeting is not interesting, engaging, and entertaining, then you will find it difficult to sustain your online group over the long haul.  

We will discuss how to create stimulating online meeting content in our next installment.