Online and In-Person Networking: You Need to do Both to be Successful
Like many online entrepreneurs and small business owners, I spend a lot of time “networking” via my LinkedIn network, friending new people on Facebook and following people on Twitter. During this time, I’m engaging in conversations, making introductions and producing content.
There are many advantages to spending a lot of time building relationships through online networking. However, there is also real power in in-person networking. Social media tools can help.
For example, I was able to interview Tom Jolly, a former Senior Sports Writer for the New York Times, after connecting with him via Twitter and then meeting him in person at a sports networking event. He’s not the only one.
I’ve used the power of online networking through Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to connect with and interview others like: Peter Stringer – Director, Interactive Media of the Boston Celtics, Oscar Ugaz – Former Digital Business Manager, Real Madrid F.C. and Jon Sinden – Social Media Director, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Each time I think about it, I remember the experience of that personal instant connection we had when we met offline after spending months interacting online through social media.
Online Networking Rules Apply to Offline Networking
Just as authenticity and quality are useful in the online world for small business owners, the same applies to the “real world” of in-person networking. Settling for quantity over quality will get you nowhere.
Before You Go to an Offline Networking Event – Do These 5 Things on LinkedIn
In many of my presentations, I suggest attendees “google” other people. Guess what pops up first? Their LinkedIn profile. Your profile should reflect accurately who you are, what you do and who you’d like to meet.
Take advantage of the power of social media tools to check out who will be attending beforehand. Not only can you see who is going, but you can also determine if the event will be worth your time.
Use these 5 suggestions to easily “break the ice” when you meet them face-to-face.
- Location: Check out where they live or where they are from. Having a common location to refer to can help with introductions.
- Work Experience: Check out what they do and think about how you can add value even if it means you connect them with other people of influence.
- Education: Going to the same college or even a competing college can lead to exchanging similar experiences – all a way to connect.
- Mutual Connections: People do business with people they trust. Having a shared connection is extremely powerful for building that trust.
- Groups: Look at the various groups other people are part of. It gives you some insight into their interests and can be a great conversation starter and trust builder, especially if it doesn’t involve business.
A Few More Tips When Going to an Offline Networking Event
Now that you’ve got a feel for who will be attending, there are a few more things to keep in mind and practice while attending the in-person event:
- Bring Your Business Cards
No – business cards are not dead! They can extremely handy for keeping your name in front of someone you’d like to build a business relationship with.
- Decide to Meet 5 New People – And Do It
It doesn’t matter if there is a business opportunity awaiting you or not – meet new people and connect them with others if there is a fit. Also, don’t pass judgment based on the way someone is dressed. You never know – they may be the perfect person to help you change your business. Look them up when you get home and then reach out online.
- Use Your Phone – But Be Considerate
I suggest that you take out your phone and tweet about your experience. Reach out to the speakers and share what you’ve learned with people in the crowd. But…be considerate of other people when you use your phone. For instance, tweet about the presentation while it is being given, but don’t text when you are speaking to someone one-on-one. Be entirely “with them” in the moment.
- Follow up with Your New Connections
After each live networking event, make it your mission to follow up with everyone you met. If you know of someone you can introduce them to, make that introduction. Another way to follow-up is to line up a coffee chat in person. Be proactive and ask for that meeting!
Time to Put It into Action
Remember…live, in-person events are about meeting new people. Be prepared to arrive ready to learn something new, but focus 80% of your effort on connecting with new people.
Most speakers love talking to their audience after a presentation. I know I do. So, make one of those 5 new people the speaker at your event!
Has LinkedIn helped open doors for you or helped you connect with someone you never thought you’d meet? Tell me your story!