Home Lifestyle Reflecting on a decade of networking: 10 ways business networking has evolved

Reflecting on a decade of networking: 10 ways business networking has evolved

by TKOAdmin

Best-selling author and business networking expert Stefan Thomas has marked the 10th anniversary of his acclaimed book Business Networking for Dummies by sharing 10 ways in which the world of networking has changed since 2014.

In that 10 years, Stefan has attended more than 1,500 face-to-face networking events in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and has seen the world of networking evolve literally in front of his eyes.

With more than 10,000 book sales under his belt, Stefan’s book continues to serve as guidance for professionals navigating the intricate world of business connections.

Stefan lives in Oxfordshire and is a professional speaker, alongside running his own invitation only national networking group Connect.

Stefan reflects on the dynamic changes in the world of networking and business.

  • Suits – when I started going networking, everyone wore suits. Business dress has undoubtedly changed in that time. In one of my earliest networking experiences I wasn't wearing a tie, someone looked me up and down and asked if it was 'dress down Friday'. These days I haven't worn a suit to a networking event for years.
  • Social media – I got into Twitter in 2008, but many businesses were still looking at social media as a bit of a novelty in 2014. In 2024, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are firmly established as an essential part of any business's networking activity.
  • Breakfast – at the beginning of my networking journey, networking events happened at breakfast time (or in the early evening if you worked in a city). Now there are events at times of day to fit any business and any business owner and, crucially, to fit around school run times.
  • Networking opportunities – there really were only a few choices back in the day, but now pretty much every county and region in the UK has at least one decent networking organisation, as well as the national / international groups.
  • Women-only networking – this sector has absolutely exploded with gender specific groups appearing across the UK. Anything that makes anyone feel more comfortable networking is to be welcomed and I know a lot of women prefer women only groups.
  • Business cards – the pandemic really changed a lot of people's thoughts on whether it was sensible to pass around pieces of card for people to take! These days I don't carry business cards and am much more likely to connect with someone on LinkedIn whilst we are chatting.
  • Smart Phones – these have really come into their own in the last decade, with most business owners now carrying around their diary, their social media profiles, their contact information, all in one pocket-sized device.
  • Virtual networking – Zoom and the other similar platforms all existed before the pandemic, but hardly any of us really used them for networking. These days I can attend networking events literally all over the world, without ever leaving my desk. Whilst some people still prefer face-to-face contact, there is no doubt that these platforms have made us more efficient and enabled us to attend networking events we wouldn't previously have had time for.
  • Networking as a skill – plenty of employers and organisations have now worked out that networking skills are vital for their teams, even the ones who don't attend networking events. Those skills can help people with their careers and internal communications, as well as bringing in sales to an organisation.
  • LinkedIn – sure it existed when I wrote the book, but in the last decade the platform has become THE social networking space for people in business and commerce. No matter which sector or profession I'm working with, they have their own way of using LinkedIn. As a social networking tool in the business space, it is unrivalled and as a means to get past the gatekeeper for salespeople and account managers, there has never been a tool like it.
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