Let’s face it—social skills haven’t exactly been a top priority this past year. The pandemic forced us to quarantine, avoid crowds and work virtually from home. While we all learned new skills, there are others that fell to the wayside—like networking. 

Now that mandates are being lifted and life as we once knew it is slowly coming back into view, it’s time to adapt to a new way of making connections and networking. Check out how you can get back into the swing of things with some tips and tricks for your next networking opportunity.

Find Your Comfort Level 

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the global pandemic, it’s that virtual and technology are the ways of the future. Now that restrictions are lifting, virtual options are here to stay. For your business, consider the doors that virtual networking opens. You can suddenly connect with potential customers or business partners that you might not have met in your own city.

There is also something to be said about the connections you can make in-person. Decide your comfort level with networking in-person versus virtually and stick to it. Many conferences or networking opportunities are now offering both options. 

Make a Good Impression

First impressions are important and often hard to come back from if you don’t get off on the right foot. Ensure that you are wearing clothing that makes you feel confident and is also appropriate for the type of event you’re attending. If in-person and others are comfortable, greet those around you with a handshake and look directly into their eyes. If you’re virtual, ensure that background distractions are minimal and your surroundings are professional. 

Spruce Up Your Business Cards

First impressions are brief, which is why you should print a memorable business card. Consider a fun shape or colors to truly make your business card stand out. Make sure to include a link or a scannable QR code (just point your phone’s camera at the code and it opens up a website!) to your personal website or business, depending on your intended reason for networking. 

Practice Ahead of Time

If you’re worried about building connections and avoiding the awkward after hunkering down for months, remember that practice makes perfect. Call up a friend just to talk. Have a conversation with yourself in the mirror (it’ll stay between you and the mirror!). While it may sound a little silly at first, it can help warm you up for conversations later. You can also prepare by thinking about what you hope to get out of the networking session and what you’d like others to take away from your experience. Preparation is key! 

Bring a Friend

Life is easier with a friend by your side. Find somebody willing to attend the networking event with you. This can help you play off of your friend’s energy, and vice versa. It’s much easier to feel more confident when you have somebody standing by your side that you trust. Before you know it, you’ll both be networking pros! 

Now that you’re getting back out there, remember to have fun and relax! Confidence is key when it comes to networking. Take time to actively listen to those around you for the best chance at building true and meaningful connections. You’ve got this!