Drew Ellis, Founder of Like Minds
Online networking will never be as effective as networking in-person and SME leaders should throw themselves back into it as soon as they are able to, says Drew Ellis, Founder of Like Minds, an events business which runs online and live networking and thought leadership events.
SME leaders need to make the effort to get out there and start networking face to face again as soon as they are able to, says Drew Ellis, founder of networking events company Like Minds.
He says that while online communication via video calls has been invaluable during the past year of lockdowns, there is no substitute for learning from each other and sharing thoughts and ideas in person.
“It is really important that people get back to face to face networking because it is a completely different dynamic to networking online. You get to know somebody a lot quicker when you are in-person than you do on screen because of the non-verbal signals they give out. Onscreen meetings work very well with people that you know and trust, but trying to engender trust via a screen is very difficult.”
He adds: “When you meet someone in person you are not as focused on their face as you are on a screen; you are able to look away and at your surroundings, and it is a lot more relaxing. But onscreen you are not only constantly looking at them, you are also constantly looking at yourself and it can be very off-putting.”
Drew says the best thing about networking in person are the thoughts and ideas that can emerge from an engaged conversation, which you can then apply to your own business. Indeed you can often learn as much from talking to people from a different industry as you can from your own.
“In networking you are entering into discussions with like minded people and so you are going to come away with ideas that you could apply to your own business. It helps you look at the way your business is structured. You can also learn a lot from other industries, not just your own.”
He adds: “If you don’t meet people face to face, how do you grow and how do you learn? You can’t learn absolutely everything online; you need to talk to your peers to find out the mistakes they made and what works and what doesn’t work, and you can only get that through engaged conversation and listening to people.”
However Drew says that the past year has shown that there are also some benefits to networking online which can to be used to enhance physical events in future, particularly around accessibility and data.
He says: “When we get back to delivering ‘in person’ events, we will still livestream them because there will still be a global audience out there that can’t attend for one reason or another. By livestreaming them you are allowing people to still engage with the content and also to be there physically and make contact in person. So you get the best of both.”
Online events have also shown made it much easier to get detailed information about people attending your event which would be useful to incorporate into in-person events, he says.
“You get so much more data from an online event than you would from an in-person event. Platforms such as Hopin, for example, will show you how many minutes someone has spent in a particular session, for example, or what part of the world they are from. There is a lot of data that you can get which you wouldn’t normally get from an in person event.”
Drew’s Top tips
1. Never stop learning. People are inquisitive by nature and we should always be looking to improve ourselves, whether that is personally or professionally.
2. Always be open to opportunities and listen to what other people have got to say.
3. Be inspired to look beyond your own industry. Look at other businesses and the way that they operate – how they do sales and marketing or the way they acquire customers, for example, and see if you can apply those systems and processes and frameworks to your own business.