Today, businesses across the globe can connect over Skype and a person can gain 100 followers in just a few days on Twitter.
Even the most vast social media presence is no substitute for a single in-person meeting, though. In an age when online connections come cheaply, in-person networking still matters.
Six benefits of networking in person
1. Be recognised. There is a reason we like to put a name with a face: it helps us remember people.
On Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, people only see a small thumbnail of your face; the rest of the page is filled with your information and latest activity. How are they supposed to remember you from just a headshot?
In contrast, in-person meetings put your face and personality in front of people - literally. Not only will they be looking at you, but they will also see your facial expressions and be more likely to remember you as a result.
2. Speak up. Meeting in person means you can speak up, respond 'in real time' and have people actually listen and hear you.
A study conducted by EdgeRank Checker found that, on Facebook, only about six percent of a page’s fans will see a post on that page. On Twitter, followers only see your tweets if they log on shortly after you. Now compare than to having everyone’s attention during a face-to-face conversation.
3. Be understood. In-person meetings also increase your chances of being understood. This infographic from Cisco points out that while social networking might be faster and cheaper than meeting people in person, online interactions only allow for two out of six key attributes that help build relationships. Online, you can share content and exchange words, but you cannot:
- hear tone of voice
- see facial expressions
- watch unintentional body language
- observe intentional gestures
Until we can do all of these things digitally, online networking will not foster communication as well as in-person networking does.
4. Share your knowledge. By speaking up and being understood, you will have an opportunity to share your knowledge. When you are talking with someone in person, you don't need to be the most experienced authority on the subject. You have authority by simply being there. People want to hear what you know.
Online, you need to capture your audience before you can share anything with them. Unless you happen to be a sought-out authority on a subject, this means promoting yourself through blogs, ebooks, podcasts, websites and more. Much of your time and energy will be on promoting yourself, rather than explaining yourself.
5. Find chemistry. There is an intangible aspect of human relationships, which social platforms cannot capture: chemistry. Some people just click.
If you’re looking for a mentor (or a mentee), employee or investor, chemistry is vital. It's difficult to learn, teach or get excited without it.
The only way to find out whether you’ll hit it off with someone is by meeting them in person. Receiving a friend request doesn't come with a spark.
6. Meet different people. When networking in person, you will meet a wider variety of people than you will online.
Consider what happens on Netflix. Among the rows of movies will be films based on your ratings and history. If you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice recently, then Netflix will show you a host of 'chick flicks' and period dramas. If you consistently rate horror movies highly, the site will display a plethora of heart-pounding thrillers. If you like both, well, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is coming out this year - just wait, and Netflix will suggest it.
LinkedIn does the same thing as Netflix. The social site shows you people who work for your company, in your industry and in similar positions.
When networking in person, you don’t know who you'll meet and that's where the best connections come from.
Put 'in person' into practice
Now you know why in-person networking is so important, it’s time to practice it. Go to a local cafe, find a conference or sign up for a Meetup event, and introduce yourself to someone. All it takes is 'hello'.