Business is all about networking, but if you believe your only opportunity lies with networking online, then you’re missing out on business. There are still a lot of people who believe that online networking can be done faster and easier than face-to-face networking, but online networking is only one aspect of marketing yourself or your business.
In-person networking can be more effective than online marketing because it provides a face-to-face connection with the other person. Online networking can be a quick way to connect with other people, but the connections are not as strong because it is not the same direct person-to-person interaction.
One of the biggest advantages of in-person networking is that it gives you a chance to show your personality, warmth, and humor. Also, in-person networking will help you to get to know the people with whom you are networking in a deeper way. This is not possible in online networking. Also, in-person networking allows you to meet more potential business contacts as compared to an online network.
Join Business and Social Groups
The first way to make in-person networking work is to join the business and social groups. These groups are useful because they provide you with opportunities to meet like-minded people and expand your social network.
How can you get started? Here’s an example. If you are interested in event management, get involved with the event planning community to find like-minded individuals who share similar interests. You can also meet new people through these groups. Getting together with a lot of people in your groups with similar interests will help you start a professional relationship with them.
How can you find such groups? Through personal networks and informational websites. You can also use search engines to look up keywords related to your interest and business or find groups through social media. Another option is through word-of-mouth referrals or referrals from your friends.
Join Profession Networks
Another way to dip your toes into in-person networking is to join professional networks. These types of networks allow you to share information with people who have the same profession as you who aren’t active online. Joining such networks will also help you build credibility and take on leadership roles. If you can find the time, volunteer to be on a committee or take part in volunteer events where you can interact with the community.
Know What You Have to Offer
To make in-person networking effective, know your story and what you have to offer. Before going to an in-person networking event, clearly define what your business brings to the table. Be ready to present yourself in a way that makes people remember who you are and your message. Look the part, dress appropriately, and act the part. Never underestimate the importance of developing a professional image when attending these events. Your presentation will determine your future interactions within the group.
Get ready to attend networking events and bring people to them. For example, if you are a lawyer, you can participate in legal conferences such as the Texas Bar Association’s Annual Meeting where lawyers meet each other. This is a great opportunity to get your company name out there and network with lots of people with similar interests.
Talk to People
The third way to make in-person networking work is by talking to people. If you think just going to an event will be sufficient, then you are wrong. Being there isn’t enough because people don’t know who you are and what your company does. To get more results from networking events, talk to as many people as possible. Remember not all events are the same, and the type of person who attends them varies. Hand out business cards to get your name out there.
Catch up on Current Events
Don’t live in a vacuum. Be aware of current events. Read relevant news sites and use sites like Twitter to stay updated about the news. Go to sites where your audience hangs out and find out what other people are saying on those sites. Be aware and informed, so you can contribute to the conversation and people will take note of who you are and what you offer.
Avoid Risky Things
There are some behaviors you should avoid with in-person networking. Stay away from risky things such as trying to sell your product or service directly at an event. Also, avoid talking too much about your business. That might sound counterproductive, but the goal of in-person networking is to develop contacts, not sell. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and make a positive impression. You won’t do that if you talk only about your business. It could even backfire and make potential contacts lose interest in you or even avoid you.
Show genuine interest in the people with whom you are talking. For example, if you meet a lawyer, ask the lawyer about a certain law that interests you. This will give people the impression you are interested in what they are saying and is a great conversation starter.
In-person networking does not have to be as hard as it sounds and it’s an effective way to build your network. Go into it with the right mindset, making connections and a good impression, rather than with a salesperson mindset.
Get to Know Business and Community Leaders
You do not have to go to every event. Instead, network and get to know the people who are hosting the events. Start this process by putting your business card into a person’s hand or making eye contact with them while they are handing out cards. Basically, you want to get their attention so that they will remember you as someone they should know and potentially invite you to their events. Be personable without being promotional.
The Bottom Line
Don’t spend all of your time on online networking, be present locally too. In-person networking is a great way to help build up your professional connections. It should bring you many happy returns.