October 25, 2014

Why Networking in Person Still Matters

I have grown up in the business world working and interacting directly with people for many years. I enjoy it, I look forward to it and I still say it’s where the magic happens in relationships. But today, we have two worlds that are learning how to blend, balance and work together: online/Web-based and offline/in person.

In the past few years, so much emphasis and shifting has gone to the Web/online world because that is where the growth and movement trends are. In-person networking has taken a hit, as evidenced with declining enrollment in chambers of commerce, fee-based networking events and professional organizations. It’s not that people don’t want to go; it’s simply a matter of finances . . . or is it? Are we substituting an e-mail, tweet, post or text for live, in-person activities. thinking that is going to grow relationships?

Networking In Person

We can never forget how important and powerful people getting together for face-to-face interaction can be. Nor can we allow sending e-mails or texts to replace that interaction. Blending your online and offline activities is important because today, people are communicating and engaging equally in both places. The online and offline worlds are interdependent and interrelated.

If I meet you online and strike up an online relationship that has value and interest to me, then taking it offline is going to enhance that relationship and help it progress. If we meet in person, then staying connected online is going to enhance our relationship and help it progress until we meet in person again.

Why is face-to-face networking so important?

  • The power of personally connecting and human interaction accelerates relationship building. In 10 minutes I can learn more about someone, and they about me, in person than in six months online!
  • Finding common ground comes from having a conversation or discussion on the phone or in person. The energy that passes between people finding out that they have a hobby, favorite book, peer or life experience in common can be profound.
  • Making decisions on what the next step is and putting the plan in motion can happen in one minute on the phone or in person, as opposed to multiple e-mails.

I just moved back to my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale after a four-year career detour on the southwest coast of Florida. Although I have many roots from many years and careers, I am reconnecting with the market four years later and in a different professional capacity. I have decided to tap into my network and ask to be connected to like-minded people they know. I will reciprocate and network them with people I know to do the same for them. Finding out what events, groups and activities people go to is a much better way to find connections.

If you haven’t been out and about enough, set some goals this year to reconnect in person in your community, business world or hobbies. Go where you already have commonality and know people. It’s a much easier and faster way to get connected, get personal and make some new friends and connections–and you just might get that job, interview or new customer.

How are you choosing your networking events?

28 Comments ▼

Deborah Shane


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane is a past staff writer for Small Business Trends covering marketing, branding and social media topics. She is a Top 100 Small Business Champion, career transition consultant, personal branding strategist and social media specialist. Deborah hosts her Top 100 Small Business Podcast weekly. Her book #trusthewhy Fundamentals, Values and Humor Get You Through Anything and award winning "Career Transition: Make the Shift" (2011) are available through all major book sellers.

28 Reactions

  1. Hey Deborah,
    I completely agree…I’m more on more trying to use Skype video for my chats with people to more quickly buildup the Visibility and Credibility of networking with other folks. I know it’s still not quite in person, but it’s about as close of a substitute as we can sometimes garner. It is a step toward that more personal relationship.

    Brandon

  2. I agree with this. I’ve also realized that just sitting behind a computer all day thinking it’s an ATM machine is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I’ve realized by going to BNI ECT I’ve made more money.

  3. I do a lot of networking online simply because it expands my reach. However, I agree that you can’t underestimate the power of a face-to-face meeting. When I attend industry events I make a special effort to research which of my online contacts will be there and then meet in person. It really cements the relationship even though we probably won’t meet in person again for months.

  4. Couldn’t agree more Deborah – great article and good reminder for everyone. So glad someone else is writing about the need for BOTH in person and online networking right now. As the author of I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???, I preach the same gospel in my book.

    P.S. I’m happy to share a sample chapter with your readers and have been told that it’s great for helping “reluctant (in-person) networkers” get out there!

  5. Brandon, Robert and Brian thanks for the input. Being smart about where, who and why does matter. BTW, a Skype call and phone convo are definitely good if you are not in physical proximity.

  6. You make a very strong argument for face to face interaction. I’ve been working intensely on a product for the last 8 weeks and have barely raised my head. This week, however, I went to 2 events and gained more insight into the marketing of the business than I had gained in the last 8. Although social media outreach is critical to the success of our launch, it is no replacement for the deep relationship building that can only happen in person.

  7. Everywhere we go, people are nose deep into their phones, laptops and any other gadget that, ironically, connects us to people. No matter how technical we get, you just cant beat face to face time. Facial expressions, tone of voice and just human interaction can make such a huge difference. I agree this is a very important part of business still.

  8. Good reasons all for maintaining face-to-face contact. I’d add another: You get a lot of very valuable information from body language. Add to that the human instinct to socialize and you’ve got even more good reasons to give in-person meetings high priority.

  9. I have an online and offline strategy. One suggestion I’d offer regarding networking groups is to volunteer for committees. You get on the inside track and people quickly get to know you better. Online and off it’s all about relationships.

  10. Hi Deborah,

    I completely agree that your relationships grow much stronger when you interact with someone in person, online relations are just not the same. I think you have higher power to persuade and motivate people when have a face-to-face communication with them. The best strategy is to make contacts and then continue building the relationship in person as people open up more when they’ve met you as it builds higher credibility.

    Riya Sam

  11. Couldn’t agree more. I use social networks to augment–not supplant–my in-person networking. It’s amazing how much you can increase the intimacy by knowing a bit about someone first. I just try to not appear “stalky” about it.

  12. I am loving this thread thanks all! Sabin amazing and no surprise at those results and how that works. Shara agreed no matter how technical, can’t beat F2F! Geri, we are naturally social beings. Ed great suggestion on volunteering on committees, I have done that many times and fast tracked relationships. Riya, it does make them stronger and takes them to another level. Phil, stalky is not good!People pick that stuff up.

  13. Deborah, I so agree with your perspective that online and face-to-face make for a both/and approach to relationship building. Living on a small island off the west coast of Canada and working as an artist, photographer and writer has made connecting internationally through online networks crucial. But so is being out and about in my local community and setting up face-to-face meetings in the nearby cities of Vancouver and Victoria. I need to be able to do both well to thrive individually and professionally. You have articulated this both/and approach with clarity and finesse. Thank you :) Terrill

  14. I agree, it’s still essential to network and meet in person, before you agree on working with someone, or establish a serious business project with a company or a person. It’s so easy to reinvent a personality online, that one can fall into a series of deceitful imagery that might harm a brand. Personal connection and eyeing up a brand up close is pretty important in critical partnerships.

  15. Terrill, blending the local and national is so important. It’s easy to forget about your own community! Virtual, agreed in person is where you can ‘pick up’ essence. Thanks for your comments.

  16. Great article Deborah. While on-line has it’s place, nothing can replace building personal relationships. This is the message I’m trying to take across N. America with AWI. Thanks again.

  17. High Impact-keep getting local and personal! Mary,agreed nothing replaces personal relationship!Again, thanks all for all the great conversation here.

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