The Last Word: Jeni Smith

May 11, 2021

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times, Jeni Smith, founder and networking strategist at Networking KnoWho, puts forward her ideas about how a hybrid model combining in-person events with remote networking can ensure that professionals have access to a global audience without losing the personal touch.

Business events have changed dramatically over the past 12 months as a result of COVID-19 prohibiting face-to-face interaction. What is one game-changing idea that will ensure networking remains an important part of the post-pandemic business landscape?

Being forced to adopt new technologies over the last 12 months has highlighted the benefits of remote networking. It’s time efficient, cost efficient, and takes away the need for travel, thus opening the world up as a networking playing field.

However, it has also highlighted the value of meeting in-person. As the novelty of remote meetings and events wears off, we’re realising it’s just not the same as connecting face-to-face.

We miss the atmosphere, the bustle, the human contact, and we want it back.

Moving forward, there is most definitely space for both remote and in-person networking to complement each other.

The new ‘hybrid’ offering of hosting in-person events with the opportunity for people to also dial-in remotely is a networking game-changer, and something I doubt would have been on the cards was it not for COVID-19. Not for some time at least.

The logistics of hosting such events that equally engage both in-person and remote delegates is still up for debate, but the ability to open any event to a global audience is a really exciting prospect.

What can we learn from the way business networking has been delivered over the last year?

I think the last year has really highlighted how valuable our personal and professional relationships are.

People will always find a way to connect – we need to connect – and when in-person was taken away, we turned to technology to facilitate those connections.

Having to facilitate networking remotely has really pushed hosts to become more creative with how they engage their audiences. Networking remotely means we have 101 distractions around us; the doorbell goes, kids running around, our mobiles, social media and emails at our fingertips.

Keeping delegates’ attention to enable them to get real benefit from networking events has been challenging to say the least. But challenge breeds innovation. Not only have we seen the tech develop over the last year, but also the way hosts engage with their delegates and the way delegates engage with each other.

I’ve no doubt we’ve all had to up our game due to lockdown, and I’m excited to see how that seeps into in-person events moving forward.

What do you mean by strategic networking and why do you think this is important for business and professional development?

Everyone knows the power of networking, knowing the right people and building effective relationships, yet most businesses don’t implement a strategy in order to harness that power.

Networking strategically is all about being time and cost efficient in your networking activities to improve ROI, and effectively achieve your networking objectives.

In the words of Simon Sinek, it all starts with the ‘why’: Why are you networking? What do you want to achieve? Who do you need to meet to achieve your goals?

Having a clear networking strategy empowers people, and businesses, to efficiently attend the right events, to meet the right people and to have the right conversations in order to achieve their objectives; both personal and professional.

Not only does this save valuable time and money, but it also speeds up the process of achieving goals and opening doors to new opportunities.