Social media, membership websites, professional forums, Skype calls, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, conference calls, group calls, webinars—there are so many ways to connect with others online. But what about connecting the old-fashioned way? What about actually meeting face-to-face?
You know, the kind of meeting where two people meet at the same physical location and share conversation. What about that?
What is the value of in-person networking?
It may be old fashioned, but I believe there is still value in face-to-face networking. With all the technological advances, you can still feel alone and isolated if you don’t do physical networking. It is good to get out of your office, go somewhere, and be among other people! And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Entrepreneur online says, “The value of face-to-face networking is being recognized as one of the most powerful tools available for increasing one’s personal exposure, creating meaningful relationships and providing growth opportunities at a personal and professional level.”
Forbes agrees, and they have the data to back it up. A Forbes study discovered that people found face-to-face interaction to be more persuasive and trustworthy than interaction via the internet by a margin of 80 percent.
Why is face-to-face networking more persuasive?
Because face-to-face, there’s a lot more information available about a person. What am I talking about? I’m talking about picking up on nonverbal cues. Things such as body language, eye contact, facial expressions, and leadership. Are you talking to someone who others look to for leadership? Has this person demonstrated an ability to be trusted by having a following of others?
There are many cues you can pick up on while networking in person.
This isn’t to say that all your networking time should be spent driving from one location to the next for meet-ups more days of the week than you care to. You don’t want to become a professional networker; that won’t help your client base or your bank account, not to mention your productivity. Instead, focus on networking effectively. That starts with choosing the right networking meetings.
How do you choose where to network?
If you haven’t attended any networking events previously, then run a Google search and you’ll discover many from which to choose. You might have to just jump in. Try out several groups before making any decisions. Not all groups will be ideal for you and your business. But the best way to figure out which ones are ideal is to attend meetings.
If you’re a veteran handshaker, then it’s a good idea to occasionally evaluate the networking groups in which you are involved.
- Is your time well invested in each group?
- Is there a payoff for your attendance?
- Are there like-minded individuals in the group?
- Are there people with whom you can form a mutually beneficial business relationship?
Time is your most valuable asset, and you need to spend your time wisely. There are many, many wonderful networking groups. Some are comfortable, feel-good groups that, while you enjoy the camaraderie, you aren’t growing professionally or getting new client leads. Not every group will result in an increase in your bottom line, but it should result in growth of some type for you. Maybe that camaraderie keeps you from burning out. Or maybe it’s time to invest that time elsewhere.
How much face-to-face networking do you need to do?
That really depends on you. If you are a people-person and you thrive on connecting with others, you are obviously going to want to do more than the introvert who is stretched out of their comfort zone by going to the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Figure out what stretches you a little beyond your comfort zone, and go there. You owe it to yourself to stretch and grow.
How much you network also depends on how much time you have to devote to meetings. Before you sign up to become a member of any networking group, make sure you understand the attendance expectations and that those expectations align with the time you have available.
Groups come in all shapes and sizes and schedules. Don’t give up if you don’t initially find the right group for you.
What are you going to do to increase your face-to-face networking? Research new meet-up locations in your area; find out if your favorite restaurant hosts an open breakfast, lunch, or dinner networking event; or see if your library has a book club meeting that you can join. Even small steps will reap great rewards.