When I got married back in 2008 I sourced my suppliers via Twitter and met online friends for the first time at my wedding reception. I didn’t look offline for anything… fast forward a few years and I am now having to return to the offline world. It’s not easy for me, the last time I was significantly active offline I was 5 dress sizes smaller and I had sensible hair. I mean come on… why network offline when you’ve got Twitter?
The answer to my question is simple. You can only get to know people so well through your computer screen, you only know what they allow you to see. Even with all the communication capabilities that we have today, there’s just nothing like meeting people face-to-face and seeing if they really are the same as they are online. The connections you make through offline networking are stronger and longer-lasting than those you make online, although I disagree in the case of my wedding…
When you meet people offline, you have a real opportunity to explain what you and your business are about. Your message is much more powerful when delivered in person than on a blog post. It’s also a good way to know and believe in the work of the people you meet. Networking offline deepens relationships because you’re not just talking business. You really get to know each other, seeing the other persons facial expressions and other things that you can’t accurately gauge online.
Using Social Media to find networking events.
Social networking sites are a great place to start. You can find out about local events for offline networking using websites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re feeling clueless and lost in the noise, try looking at your friends, business partners or clients and see what offline events they’re attending. LinkedIn is focused on professionals, so it’s a great site for doing this and LinkedIn events is a terrific marketing tool. If you are looking to meet a certain person in a company, stalk them, I mean research and find out what events they are attending and pop along too.
There’s also a terrific site called Meetup that’s specifically for organising offline business events. It’s free to sign up and the site has events in 12,000 cities across the world. If you are looking to meet other bloggers then MeetUp is a great starting place.
It would be remiss of me not to mention my client and co-author’s site, Business-Scene. At the time of posting the site is undergoing a huge make over, and the events listing section is terrific. The trick with the events listings is to post your events in your local area. When the local regional leader emails the membership, all the local events are listed in that email… the site also does a whole heap of other things but its focus is business networking.
Industry Trade Shows
Trade shows have always been and continue to be great offline networking opportunities. Every industry has them and they’re hosted all over the world (quite a few are in Las Vegas!). In addition to networking, they also offer educational opportunities. You can find out about these shows by looking at trade show directories online or reading trade industry journals. Attending one means you have blog topics for the next 6 months. It also means you can connect with attendees easily over social media and stay in touch.
Most trade shows stretch over a few days and cost quite a bit of money to attend. But it’s money well spent if you use the opportunity wisely. Trade shows are not only for discussing business, but also for simply socialising and having fun.
Niche Networking Groups
Major social networking sites have so many events that it can be hard to find the right one for you. Many people don’t know that there are also niche networking sites. These are social networks based around a common industry or interest. There are niche networking sites for athletes, couriers, professionals, artists, language learners, or even just ordinary people who want to be better at business. I have a friend who belongs to the Southend Mini Club. Yep, even a coastal town like Southend has a club for owners of Minis, luckily for me they don’t have a transit van owners club or I’d never see my husband.
When you join a niche networking group, you’ve already got a built-in group of friends who really understand each other. The events they talk about here are more likely to be suited to you.
The Key to Offline Networking Success
If you want to make your networking efforts pay off, the key is to follow up. If you don’t follow up with the people you rubbed elbows with, all that networking will be wasted. It’s simple to follow up – send them a ‘thank you’ note people are so used to email that they spam or delete everything, a card in the real world makes an impact and if it’s a niche card you’ll be remembered. Even if you don’t think it will lead to anything big in the future, be sure to follow up with everyone you met at the very least through email or via social media. If you don’t have the time to do this, then outsource it.
Have you returned to offline networking with ease? Let me know what worked for you.
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