Most of us have accepted that things will not return to the way they were. Digital transformations are inevitable and will continue to shape every aspect of our future. If history has taught us anything, it should be that progress is never easy and that innovation is rarely cheap. Networking is no exception.
In many ways, I would argue that digital networking is a change for the better. Why? How can flatscreens and pajama pants win out over real-life human contact? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and really examine networking then, versus the potential of digital networking now.
Our Old Networking Reality
Serious, top-level networking used to involve business club memberships and paying dues to professional associations. We were expected to fly across the country or around the world, dressed for success, and armed with the company credit card. Meetings were long and surrounded by expensive meals, endless small talk, hotel stays, and separation from our families.
But we accepted this reality. Good connections cost good money. And time. And patience. So we honed our social skills, polished our ice-breakers, and presented ourselves to the world with confidence, never questioning the efficiency of the plan.
If we attended a large conference or event, we were lost in the crowd. Hundreds or even thousands of attendees would race from one stage to another, trying to see all of the speakers and absorb all of the information. Content motivated us, not connections, and it was easy to be overwhelmed. Very little time (if any) was dedicated to networking, and even that was only while you were inhaling your lunch or drinking at the afterparty.
But, at the end of the day or business trip, how many connections had we truly made? How much time had we spent with people that were really relevant to us and our needs? In most cases, I would say not enough to warrant the time, expense, and inconvenience that we put ourselves through.
The Velocity of Communication Has Changed
Now, as 2020 draws to a close, we face a more advanced digital reality than we were prepared for. It feels like 2030 rather than 2020, and somewhere in the missing decade, we were supposed to have the time we needed to wrap our minds around this new virtual reality and learn the skills to succeed in it. But we didn’t have that time, and it doesn’t matter that we are not ready. The time is now to open our minds, sharpen our skills, and adapt.
Digital life requires an entirely new set of skills. Where before we could hide behind designer clothes and amazing glossy presentations, now we are stripped down to the bare minimum of what can fit on a screen and be communicated during a short video call. Effective digital communication requires intense focus and extreme flexibility. No more fifteen-minute introductions; now your entire call is 15 minutes. The expectations are high, but the practice and guidance have been low, which means that many people are still catching on and catching up. And many continue to resist our digital reality altogether.
When electric vacuum cleaners were introduced, people hated them. They were different, expensive, and loud. Many people chose to keep using a broom instead. But fast-forward a few decades. Almost everyone owns a vacuum. The purpose it serves may overlap with that of a broom, but in reality - a vacuum is far superior in every way. It just took us a little time to realize it. It took innovation, trial and error, and relentless salespeople to get a vacuum cleaner in every home. But they did it.
Unfortunately, we don’t have these years or the pushy salesmen that came with them to help us adapt to digital networking. No one is going to knock on our door and insist that they offer a demonstration on how to make video calls not suck. We have to figure it out on our own.
At LinkUpConferenceShow, we are focused on making meaningful connections with the help of laughter and professional improvisers who will facilitate our networking sessions and ensure that everyone is communicating (not just being Zoom zombies!). Hopefully, as time passes, more innovators will come along with other fresh and new ways to evolve and connect. But whatever the method or motivation - it is time for experimentation, adaptation, and embracing our new reality. The past was nice, but our future holds so much more potential for connecting with people from around the world. And, if we can do so from the comfort of our own home or office, all the better for us, our lives, our families, and our planet.
Anna Degtereva is a serial entrepreneur dedicated to technological innovation around the world. Her hunt for big ideas spans the globe as she connects with visionary thinkers, startups, mentors, investors, and other crazy individuals on the quest to bring positive change through technology. She is the CEO & Founder of LinkUpConferenceShow.