Will 2021 be the year we return to work? And networking? Who knows… Either way though, many law firms and lawyers to a greater or lesser degree rely upon their networks to keep the new business cogs turning, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.
But how do lawyers network post-pandemic? Here are my 5 top tips for how to approach post-pandemic networking in 2021.
1. Ask people about their comfort levels for face-to-face contact.
My recent poll on LinkedIn found that 47% of people who responded were already comfortable being ‘out and about’. This left 38% who were quite simply ‘not sure’ about when they would return to face-to-face events, socialising, meetings and / or networking (the remainder were planning on getting out and about in line with the next two UK lockdown relaxation dates of May 17th and June 21st respectively).
So what do these results mean for networking? Quite simply – you need to understand that not everybody is ready to hop back onto the lunch and coffee bandwagon.
Of course for some, networking was always akin to pulling teeth, so don’t expect those people to rush back ‘out there’ anytime soon. But for others, there’s a real reluctance or fear, quite understandably.
And that brings me back to my first top tip – ask people where they are happy to meet, and ensure that you enable them to network with you in accordance with their comfort levels. If they want to Zoom, meet them on Zoom. If they want to party… well, you know where the bar is!
2. Remember that networking is all about building connections
So don’t be a rookie and start selling. Be interested in the other person. Admittedly, this can be a bit more difficult on Zoom, for example, as you can’t easily pick up on non-verbal signals as you do naturally in real life.
Still – one benefit of Zoom is that it can enable you to perhaps be more ‘human’. It’s difficult to be stuffy when you’re sitting in your lounge in your slippers with a brew. My advice would be to embrace that reality rather than try to hide it. Same with errant children, partners, the window cleaner or Mr Hermes all appearing on screen. When we try to hide these things, that can create embarrassment (our own), which I also think can create a bit of mistrust – i.e. what is this person hiding? So, be authentic. Perhaps get dressed though.
3. Stay in contact with people after the event
Normally after meeting people face-to-face, we may offer to drop over an email – perhaps with some follow up information, dates for a second meeting or simply a note to say thank you. When you haven’t actually ‘met’ somebody – it’s even more important to follow up. For some reason, I think it’s easier to forget somebody when you haven’t actually physically eye-balled them.
So get those calendar notes in the diary to follow up once, twice, however many times. Don’t be forgotten.
4. Keep your distance
If you are meeting somebody face-to-face, it’s important to remember that this may still be an anxious time for them. Accordingly, it’s only polite to be mindful of the space between you. Although in the UK we can now meet outside for food, some people will be comfortable with crowds, others will prefer a greater degree of social distancing.
I’m not suggesting that you become a mind-reader, but be mindful of body language. It is possible to spot if somebody is becoming uncomfortable and again, in my opinion, it’s better to ask somebody if they are uncomfortable – giving them an escape route rather than them feeling they have to go somewhere that they feel unsafe.
5. Mix up your meeting places
The great outdoors – haven’t we all rediscovered it over the past year! It’s felt like a privilege to jump on my old bike and hit the cycle tracks, and running has become something I’ve grown to tolerate more easily.
So why limit exercise to personal time. Covid seems to spread less easily outside, so why not do your networking on the go. That could look like a call when you’re walking alone, a ‘netwalking’ session in a group or simply meeting and having your networking chat whilst you wander. This works just as easily in the city as the countryside by the way, and the coffee’s often better!
I hope you’ve found my COVID-friendly networking tips helpful. Do comment or share with your friends if so.
Victoria Moffatt is the founder and managing director of LexRex Communications, and a former solicitor.
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