A timely article by Pilita Clark in the Financial Times (UK) on 10 May, Why I’ve had to change my mind about networking, reflected that: ‘In a locked down world, the need to build connections has never been greater, or more physically impossible.’ The SACC, like many Chambers worldwide, are ‘retooling’ to offer connections in virtual ways. International support for the Friday Anthem and strong interest in upcoming webinars demonstrate the growing enthusiasm to connect online. The present social distancing restrictions are also being overcome by our regional chapters with the East of England leading the way.
“We have had to adapt from meeting face to face at monthly breakfast events to meetings in the virtual world,” explains Tania Verdonk, SACC’s East of England Regional Chapter Lead from Burwell (Cambridgeshire), “Our goal is to network, get to know one another and try and support one another’s businesses.”
Tania, Managing Director at Spirus Marketing, is part of a growing group of members based in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Members last gathered for an ‘in-person’ networking breakfast on 28 February in Newmarket. While such events are presently cancelled, Tania says the Chapter is determined to support and link members across the region: “It is important to stay connected though and not undo the hard work that we have all put into building our South African business network.”
Like many business groups, the Chapter has embraced a new format to connect members with people, organisations and opportunities. Through cloud-based video conferencing the Chapter is staying connected explains Tania: “Our new meetings usually comprise of a weekly informal Zoom call. We try to schedule this for 30 minutes – I try but have you ever had a bunch of South Africans in a room…”
According to the chapter lead, connecting with like-minded businesses and professionals in an informal setting is working well for regional members: “We have had a core group of people from our regular breakfast meetings and every week we see some new faces. You will be hard pushed to find a more welcoming and friendly networking group.”
Tania believes virtual networking allows further growth for regional chapters: “There are lots of good things about meeting in this way and no travel time to prevent us from attending.” While in-person business networking cannot be completely replicated, virtual events may actually be preferred by some members who enjoy the flexibility of joining from their home office, garden or lounge. It is also expected our members will become more comfortable with online networking options when the world returns to ‘normal’ (or a ‘new normal’).
“Let’s not talk about social distancing but rather call it physical distancing,” insists Tania, “And we understand Zoom calls are not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but come and just ‘be’ with us. You never know who you might meet. It could be life-changing.”
Please join our free SA Chamber East of England Networking Event where you’ll meet like minded South African businesses in the East of England.
Date: 14th May 2020 | 11h00-11h30
Meeting ID: 824 9364 3735
Contact: Tania Verdonk via email for more information.
Like SA Chamber Chapter East of England Facebook page.