22 Nov 2021

Make your networking sustainable


Online networking is now a staple means by which to network and is truly complementary to in-person, face-to-face-events. It is only in a small number of cases that business owners aren't returning to face-to-face networking. In these instances, businesses have evolved and have a more global appeal, rendering local business networking less relevant. For the vast majority of us, a combination of both face-to-face and virtual networking works wonderfully.

You probably know what the practical benefits of virtual networking are, but what are the environmental ones? Firstly, you can join the meeting from your home or office, reducing the need to drive. Therefore, this means using less fuel, which reduces your carbon footprint, and of course, your petrol or diesel costs. Plus, the time previously used for travelling can be invested in other tasks in your business or towards your own well-being.

There are many environmental advantages to virtual networking, including that we don't need as many paper or plastic versions of things, such as stickers, name badges, marketing materials like flyers, or business cards. We can use digital tools to connect. Using fewer disposable items helps us to cut down on both the materials and resources required to create them.

However, being a solo entrepreneur, lone and home worker can be isolating, so as much as virtual networking has been brilliant for some of us, it has been truly challenging for others. The option to meet once more in person is really appealing, creating an atmosphere the virtual world can't quite match.

Maintain To Sustain

Sustainability, from a less environmentally focused perspective, refers to being able to continue a certain activity over a period of time. In business, we often call this equilibrium, ‘business as usual'. From this standpoint, how do we ensure our networking activity is sustainable?

Attending fewer events, but committing fully to the events you do go to, is the most efficient way to network. Doing less can definitely create more opportunity, when you have a plan.

Business Buzz is centred around creating meaningful, lasting business relationships and local interconnected communities. To be active in your local business community requires both time and commitment. Successful networking involves directed conversations and follow-ups. There are no quick fixes; building business relationships relies on a solid foundation of trust and understanding.

By spreading yourself too thinly and attending many networking events without enough time to dedicate to follow-up conversations, you will get much less return on your time and investment, while your environmental footprint increases.

Start Sustainably Networking In 3…2…1

Visiting one Business Buzz networking event per month and making the most of the opportunity should take around 8 hours of your time if you follow the Buzz 3-2-1 principle. This allows for driving time, time at the event, (that's up to 2 hours with Buzz at least once a month), finding your new connections on LinkedIn & other social media, picking up the phone to invite a visitor, arranging your 1-2-1s, meeting for your 1-2-1s that should be about an hour long and ideally include coffee & cake (virtual cake is never as exciting as the real thing!) and getting there and back when not virtual.

So, sustainable networking means networking that we can fully commit to, while maintaining work and life commitments. If we over-commit, we are likely to start cutting corners and missing out elements of the 3-2-1 principle.

How to make those little adjustments

Be clever with your networking. Make a day of it! Let's suggest you are a regular visitor to Business Buzz for Birmingham, which is every month on the second Wednesday between 10 am & noon:

  • Are you aware that Birmingham City Centre is a “Clean Air Zone”, so dependent on your car, you might need to pay a fee to drive into the city centre. Why not take the train, tram or bus to visit Birmingham Buzz? Birmingham is so well connected by public transport both locally, but also across the entire West Midlands region & beyond.
  • Keep your networking local where you can & place Business Buzz for Birmingham (or your local Buzz) at the centre of your networking strategy.
  • Do you really need to hand out flyers or business cards to everyone you meet? What do you do with the cards you collect? Most of us carry a smartphone, so make sure you have LinkedIn & Twitter easily accessible & connect there. My smartphone has a notes facility, so I jot down the names of people I meet, with whom you want to follow-up.
  • Make a day of it. Pull some of your 3-2-1 principle activities together. Why not arrange a meeting with an existing contact before Birmingham Buzz at a nearby coffee shop & do the same immediately after the event in the venue?
  • Work for the rest of the day at our lovely Business Buzz partner venue, The Florence Pub, they have power sockets for laptops, Wi-Fi available & you can order food to keep your energy levels up. Take some time to work on your business.
  • Attend the virtual Business Buzz West Midlands monthly event, which runs on each fourth Friday & is powered by Remo. It complements a visit to the face-to-face Buzz for Birmingham perfectly.