The changing face of networking

Many lawyers and other professionals are accustomed to the needs and indeed benefits of building a network of contacts who might require their services, and often looked forward to the evening or afternoon event away from their desk to chat and engage with those in their city.

But with the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic many people wondered how the networking world would continue, and how were people going to make those vital contacts in lockdown. The answer was, of course, via virtual events, such as seminars and the downward dog.  Will this change now we’ve had a year of lockdowns and virtual events? Solicitor Alex Redford of the Group’s specialist corporate and commercial practice Beyond Corporate looks at how networking is likely to continue evolving in an increasingly virtual world, and whether the return of physical events is off the table for good.


Virtual networking

During the height of the pandemic there were a raft of events which were held in some form of virtual environment, such as Teams or Zoom, which allowed people to connect with others when they often needed it most, and proved a useful alternative to the atypical drinks and hovering around the buffet food. These virtual events also allowed people to network with people with whom they may not have been able to in the traditional networking environment, as those virtual events opened up forums across the nation, not just in the city or town where the person was based.

This expansion meant an equal expansion of those people’s networks, which begs the question: ‘why would you want to network any other way?’ It’s a question many have been considering as they hope to continue promoting their businesses post-pandemic.

Human connection

The answer is simple when you think about it: as human beings we crave connection and shared experiences, and those experiences are never better than when we’re in the same room, enjoying the same atmosphere and establishing genuine, face-to-face connections. These feelings cannot be found on video platforms and while those platforms have gone a long way to connect people, they will never be able to digitise a way to share atmosphere, that hum you get from a bustling room or the soft, almost non-existent piano tune being played in the background; that is why the return of physical events is not just inevitable but greatly welcomed, especially for the younger professionals who are eager to raise their profile in their own peer group and local community.

While virtual events will continue – and likely increase, the calendars of countless bars and event spaces will be getting filled with the return of the face-to-face networking, giving people greater choice as to how they wish to expand their networks which, at least for the writer of this blog, is a positive outcome of the pandemic. I certainly can’t wait to get out there and chat small talk with those in my region.