Despite the importance of online networking, you should not ignore the power of talking to someone face to face, in real life.
A 2016 report by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shows that face-to-face meetings are the most successful in fostering a sense of bonding. Stronger relationships not only make someone more likely to garner referrals that could help them advance in their careers, but they are also important drivers of business. Real-life networking is also a great companion to online networking, as most professionals you'll meet offline are also active on social media.
For both increasing positive awareness of one's business and one's personal brand, in-person networking is key. A 2016 survey of 3,000 people published on LinkedIn shows 85 per cent of all jobs are filled because of networking. If you're wondering how to network in real life and make an impact, here are three ways to do so.
Join a Professional Organization
No matter what industry you're in, there are national and local organizations representing the kind of professional you are and those you work with. From the Public Relations Society of America to the Business Women's Network, a quick Google search pairing "professional organization" with your field of work is a great starting point to find local meetings or conferences you can attend.
Some organizations host mixers that blend social aspects with authoritative speakers in your industry. The talks provide a great icebreaker to talk about with other attendees. Others feature committees that work toward the advancement of positive change within your industry. Getting involved in a committee and working toward a goal with other professionals gives them insight into your working style as you develop stronger bonds.
Host an Event Sponsored by Your Company
An effective way to establish your company and you as a representative and leader in your space is to host a networking event sponsored by your company. This allows you to include company branding on the event's marketing materials, include speakers from your business' roster, and network with other local businesses who might serve as the event venue or caterer.
Co-sponsoring an event with another business doubles your marketing strength, when you as organizers get to put an engaging event into motion. By playing a part in everything from event planning to invitation coordination to following up with attendees after the event to gather feedback, you increase your professional circle and boost the likelihood of future partnerships.
Focus on the Individual
For introverts, who make up at least one-third of the American population according to author Susan Cain, of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, navigating a boisterous room to find networking matches can be so overwhelming, it's easy to give up on in-person networking and stick to online tools. For professionals whose energy dwindles when they're around larger groups, meeting people on a more personal basis makes in-person networking more manageable.
If there is someone whose professional journey is inspiring, ask for a meeting, citing specific reasons why you admire them as the catalyst for wanting to get together. Set up a quick coffee chat, and come prepared with questions to ask them and points you'd like to share about yourself. Be respectful of their time, and follow up with a thank you note to keep the relationship momentum. Genuinely listen to what they say in the conversation, and view the meeting as a true give-and-take. Even if you approach them because you are interested in their mentorship, make your meeting valuable to them by offering to help in whatever capacity you can.
No matter what route you take in setting up in-person networking opportunities for yourself, aim to be empathetic, a great listener and authentic in your interactions. The tenets from Dale Carnegie's classic 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which include actions as simple as smiling and calling people by their names during conversation, still make a meaningful impact on real-life networking.
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