The ability to make connections and meet new business contacts is key in many industries, particularly for those in sales and marketing, or for those who own their own business. Whether looking for employment opportunities or new clients, traditional in-person networking has been severely impacted by the spread of COVID-19 with many cities, states, and even countries under lockdown due to stay-at-home orders.

This has made most people’s idea of networking feel impossible since work events, evening happy hours, and general watercooler talk are no longer options.

The timing of these lockdowns is particularly stifling as spring is the middle of the conference season, and with many major conferences around the globe being postponed, or even canceled, many people are losing out on major opportunities.

For those who rely on networking to grow their business, the current lockdowns can leave you feeling lost and unsure of how to foster relationships. However, while a pandemic would have brought networking to a halt 25 years ago, technology makes it possible for us to continue building critical relationships even while under quarantine. If you are unsure how to stay connected during this quarantine, never fear! Here are a few simple ways that you can continue to network, make new connections, and foster current relationships.

Host Virtual Meetings

If you had meetings with potential clients lined up before stay-at-home orders went into place, or you were looking forward to meeting certain people at upcoming conferences that have since been canceled, consider trying to host virtual meetings instead. While it may feel odd for some to ask people they have never met to talk on video, this can be a great way to make connections and expand your network without breaking physical distancing.

If there was a business or entrepreneur that you were looking forward to meeting at an upcoming conference, try sending them an email to see if they would be interested in meeting you for coffee virtually or even for a virtual happy hour. Express why you were excited to meet them and what you were hoping to get out of meeting them. You may find you are able to make meaningful connections this way even under quarantine. Plus, a remote happy hour can be a fun way to relieve stress and break the ice. The unique nature of how you’re meeting will definitely be a talking point.

If you were in the midst of a job interview process, reach out to the recruiter or whoever you were set to interview with next. If you’re still interested, let them know and see if they’d be willing to talk with you over Zoom or Skype. Even if they’re on a hiring freeze, it’ll feel good to know you proactively reached and when hiring returns to normal you’ll be on the top of their mind.

Reach Out to Conference Speakers

This can also work if there was a speaker you were looking forward to listening to and engaging with at an upcoming conference as well. Even though it can feel intimidating to contact a major conference speaker to request a meeting, the fact is that you have nothing to lose by reaching out to them. They’re most likely at home anyway, so it’s worth a shot.

Let them know why you were interested in their panel or presentation, and see if they would be willing to meet virtually or at least answer a few questions through an email exchange. Make sure to keep your questions clear and concise, and follow up your discussion with an email thanking them for their time and outlining how you have, or plan to, implement their advice. Not only does reaching out to conference speakers allow you to gain the insight you missed out on when your conference was canceled, but this also gives you a unique opportunity to expand your network and make connections with key players in the field. The speaker may have even recorded what their talk was going to be, so definitely do some research before you reach out in case the information is already available.

Attend Virtual Conferences

Just because physical conferences can’t be held at the moment doesn’t mean that you can’t participate in conferences virtually.

While many conferences have been canceled, many others have been moved online. It could benefit you to do some research to see if any conferences in your field are being held virtually and are hosting panels or discussions that you could attend. There may even be conferences that were too expensive or far away that have now shifted online entirely. Could be a great opportunity to attend a conference you weren’t even planning to.

Keep in mind, when attending a virtual conference, it’s easier to get lost in the crowd. This makes it critical that you actively engage in the discussion by posing questions in the chatbox, offering commentary on opinions being presented, and by trying to make connections with other attendees. If you can’t find a relevant virtual conference to attend, why not consider working together with colleagues to make your own conference? You may be able to convince speakers from canceled conferences to give a virtual lecture to you and your business partners, allowing you to make up for missed networking opportunities.

Hit Up Existing Contacts

While you may not have many opportunities at the moment to establish new business connections in person, the current environment is an opportunity to maintain current relationships and reconnect with former clients that you haven’t spoken to in some time. Reach out to your established network to simply ask how they are doing and to see if there is anything that you can do to help them. It’s a great time to read through your connection lists and see who you haven’t heard from lately.

Networking is a long-term exercise, and the pandemic is a shared difficult experience; simply asking an old contact or former client how they are doing and letting them know that you are thinking about them can go a long way. As this passes and business picks up again, they will remember that you were thinking about them, which can strengthen your relationship.

Connect On Social Media

While staying connected online through social media and professional platforms like LinkedIn has become a key aspect of networking in recent years, doing so is more vital now than ever as more professionals switch to working remotely. Staying connected online now will give you more opportunities than ever to make new connections using these platforms. I encourage you to not only update, but maybe completely overhaul, your LinkedIn presence and story – and perhaps also spend time on your LinkedIn and professional Facebook or Twitter accounts posting resources, posing questions to create engagement, and participating in online discussion groups. Staying active online is more critical than ever as it can help you to continue networking and making connections from home.

Make sure that what you produce on social is informative, engaging, and personal, without being self-serving or advertising, which could appear tone-deaf even if you’re well intentioned.

Talk With Existing Clients

It’s easy to forget about existing clients in the shuffle of everyday work. We’re often so focused on acquiring new clients that we put aside the ones we’ve already started working with. At RevenueZen we’re huge believers in the matrimony of customer success and marketing teams, and now is a better time than ever to reach out to existing clients.

If you’re a small startup and work intimately with clients on projects, give them a call! Let them know you’re thinking of them during uncertain times and that you’re always available to bounce around business ideas. Simply expressing interest and giving that personal attention to a client goes a long way. You might learn something new about a client and their business and could even adapt your own business, collateral, and offerings to shift to a changing global environment. Your current customers can teach you a lot. If you need an icebreaker conversation point, consider asking your clients what Enneagram they are. At RevenueZen, we’ve got a lot of Enneagram 3 types and that’s definitely dictated how we interact with each other. Consider sparking that conversation with your clients.. it’s a definite point of intrigue!

The fact is that COVID-19 has removed many natural networking opportunities, making it difficult to establish and maintain business connections. However, this does not mean that networking is impossible, far from it: you will simply have to be more intentional and put in the effort to find new ways to connect with others from home.

Creating quality social content, lead gen, and SEO calendars are all part of the long term game. We’d love to talk about it with you. Contact us if you’d like to bounce some ideas around.

6 Ways to Network When Times Are Hard Alex Boyd

Alex is the Founder & CEO of RevenueZen. Originally from San Francisco, he's planted roots in Portland. When he's not teaching social selling and B2B content marketing, he's practicing music, creative writing, weightlifting, and acro yoga. Formerly the Director of Growth @ inDinero, investor and advisor to high-growth B2B statups. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.