In-person connections are still vital when it comes to decision making. It can be tempting to rely on digital alternatives, but they can’t be your sole networking tool. There are plenty of compelling reasons why you need to get out there and meet some people face-to-face.
But with targets to meet and 2016 nearing its conclusion, it’s tempting to put your head down and make some calls, channelling all of your networking efforts through your phone and your computer screen. Here’s why you shouldn’t and why you should get yourself out of the office…
Now we’ve talked a lot about face-to-face networking, and we even hosted our own recruitment event. So we’re clearly big believers in turning off the computer (even if it’s only for an afternoon) and heading out into the big wide world to meet some people.
And with good reason too. As Inc. contributor Gary Vaynerchuk points out: ‘There is so much context that can be done in human interaction. It just doesn’t map the same digitally. That isn’t to say emotion can’t be conveyed digitally. I feel plenty emotion over discussion on Twitter. But the energy in the room is lost on digital. In conference calls too. And in the end, the energy is what matters so much for the equation.’
There are plenty of advantages to networking in-person. You can read the room, you can interpret the body language of the person standing in front of you, and you can immediately respond to their signals. It requires you to be reactive and responsive. Unlike email or other digital channels, there’s no potential to edit responses. This can be both a negative and a plus, but face-to-face interaction can certainly be more honest and transparent leading to stronger, longer lasting relationships.
One of the main advantages of in-person networking is that it lets you connect on a personal level. You are, of course, representing your agency, but you have the opportunity to create a more human moment of interaction, acting as a person rather than channelling your company persona. As Seth Godin, a well-known business and brand guru, says: ‘What people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies.’
The easiest way to connect with other people is offline as you can forge meaningful and authentic connections with people. And if you do it well, although not entirely specific to in-person meet ups, these new friends can recruit others via word of mouth leading to introductions and new connections, relevant and tailored because people are getting to know who you are.
When it comes to getting the most out of networking events, make meeting new people a goal. Do some research and determine relevant prospects within your community and attend networking events that you know they’ll attend too. Although digital technologies have made the world smaller and you can reach out to people from any country in the world, don’t neglect the personal touch of meeting up with people in your physical, geographic location.
Using Social Media
There are plenty of benefits to face-to-face networking but don’t ignore digital channels. The best way to network is to use a blended approach, using as many channels as possible, and using the best practices on each. Social media is an excellent way to introduce yourself to people before you meet them in person.
As Gary adds: ‘Digital’s role should be as the gateway to a human interaction. You may hear about something digitally, or get the conversation started over a quick phone call. But to really hash out the details, to get into the specifics, you need that in-person interaction. It provides a whole new context.’
Which is good advice. Building relationships via social media is an effective place to start, it lets you research and determine who you should be talking to. Then, as often as possible, move those relationships offline, meet those people in person either at networking events, or for a coffee.
And when you do, make sure you’re a good listener. It’s perhaps the best way to make an excellent first impression. As Anastasia says, in a blog titled 'How to Become a Really Good Listener':
'Good listeners tend to do well when it comes to developing key social relationships like meeting new people, attracting partnerships, (and) socialising with colleagues.'
Getting Your Name out There
The purpose of networking is to build on your personal brand, get your name out there, and for you to crop up in relevant industry conversations. The aim is to become the go to recruiter in your niche, the expert, the consultant, and the person that relevant candidates and clients reach out to.
So, getting yourself out there, both on social and in-person can make all of the difference. And, although digital channels have their place, remember that in-person networking, the personal touch of actually going and meeting up with someone, matters. As Women@Forbes adds:
‘After all, it’s easy to misinterpret a text or email. Especially for sensitive or otherwise important communication, having tone and body language for context makes a difference. On top of that, meetings foster greater buy-in from staff and stakeholders.’
Of course, there are some instances where face-to-face communication isn’t possible. And it’s not always the best forum for communication, some remote teams do exceptionally well and they’ve never physically met up. But when it comes to networking and building new friendships with relevant industry people in your niche, it’s time to get out there, shake some hands, and start some good conversations.