Why You Need To Get Out From Behind Your Computer To Benefit From Social Networking

offline networkingThe core of my business is conducted online and as a result, I spend countless hours online building my network on Linkedin, friending people on Facebook and following people on Twitter.  And, in doing so, I also spend a considerable amount of time engaging in conversations online, making introductions and producing content for all of the online platforms I participate in.

It’s easy to get caught up in spending so much time “networking” online since it can be extremely rewarding when you realize that genuine relationships can be built and real business can be done when you engage with others using social tools.  In fact, when I speak about the power of networking online, I frequently use my own experiences to show others what is possible.

My Story On The Power Of Taking Online Conversations Offline

offline networkingI had the pleasure of conducting an interview the other day with Tom Jolly – former Senior Sports Writer for the NY Times.  I first met Tom on Twitter (May 2009) and later met him in person at a live sports networking event in NYC (Sept 2009).  As a guy with no previous experience working in the sports industry, I was amazed when I was able to connect with people, like Tom, that I previously thought were unreachable.  And, here I am 2.5 years later, interviewing Tom on how he broke into the sports industry and educating others on how they can land their dream job in sports!

Needless to say, I am continuously amazed at the power of online networking on a daily basis. Just look at some of people I have been able to connect with and interview in the past 6 months alone as a direct result of my proactive use of Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

All this being said, I am reminded time and time again of the power of taking those online conversations offline to meet with people face-to-face at live networking events. If you have ever experienced the instant connection that you have with someone you meet in person, after you’ve spent months interacting with them on social media, you know what I’m talking about!

The Same Rules Apply Online and Offline

The same rules that apply to online networking also apply to “real world” offline networking.  If you are not genuine with your approach and focused on “quantity” versus “quality”, you will not get what you are looking for and quite simply, you need to change your approach!

Here’s a video of Seth Godin talking about why effective networking comes down to “helping people achieve their goals”.

Seth Godin – How To Do Social Networking Right

5 Things You Should Do On Linkedin Before Going To An Offline Networking Event

There are many online event services where you can find groups, topics and people you are interested in meeting.  Some of these include Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com.  One of the unique, and powerful, features of these event platforms is that you get to see who is going to attend before you go.

This can be powerful in a number of ways, since it can help you determine whether or not the live event will be worth your time (let’s be honest….sometimes an event doesn’t turn out to be as advertised). It also allows you to understand who will be attending a particular event and do some background research on those people.

Using Linkedin As A Research Tool

I often mention during my presentations that people are “Googling” other people online. And, one of the first things they’ll see pop up on a Google when they search your name is your Linkedin profile. This is why it is critical that you make sure your Linkedin profile is a true reflection of who you are, what you do, what you want to do and who you are interested in meeting.

Yes, this can be a scary reality for many people.  But, it can also be a huge advantage for you since you can also “Google” other people to find out who you might want to meet at a live event.  When researching others that you might want to meet at an event, take a look at these 5 things in their Linkedin profile so you can learn more about them and then use this information to easily “break the ice” when you meet face-to-face.

1. Location– find out where they live now or their hometown.  I know that being from Saskatchewan, I have used this commonality numerous times when first introducing myself to people I meet at live networking events.

2. Work experience – this is an obvious one, but find out what they do and consider if there are ways you can add value to what they do.  And, remember, this doesn’t mean that you have to find some “angle” on how you are going to pitch them. You might see someone’s profile and realize that they have to meet one of your business contacts. If that’s the case, make a point to introduce them at the event.  Become a connector!

3. Education – did you go to the same University?  Or, perhaps a competing University?  This can go a long ways as you both likely had similar experiences in your academic career and can talk about your experience

4. Mutual Connections – this is one of the most powerful features on Linkedin.  After all, people do business with people they trust.  And, nothing is more powerful in the business world than knowing the right people (and ultimately being referred business by a trusted colleague, friend, etc)

5. Groups – check out the groups that other people are a part of.  In many cases, this will give you some insight into areas that are of interest to that person. It might be a non-profit initiative that they support that you also support.  Engaging in conversation that is not always focused around “business” is one of the best ways to build trust with someone at a live networking event.

4 More Things You Should Do At Offline Networking Events

1. Bring Business Cards

This seems like such an obvious point to make, but it’s amazing how many people show up to networking events without business cards.  Here’s a recent article written by world renowned networking expert, Darcy Rezac titled “The Death Of The Business Card Has Been Greatly Exaggerated“. Darcy and his co-authors, Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Judy Thomson of Shepa Learning Company have a number of free resources you can access to learn the art of Positive Networking. You can also follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ShepaTweets

2. Make A Point To Meet 5 New People

Don’t disregard someone if you don’t see an opportunity to work together.  Take the opportunity to introduce them to others (online & offline).  The law of reciprocity is an extremely powerful thing!  And, please, don’t judge people by the way they are dressed…..you never know who might be that person in the crowd that will change your business and/or life!!

And remember, even if your first encounter with someone is a brief one, make a point to look them up online when you get home.  You might find out something about them that you didn’t get a chance to discuss in person.  So, make a point to connect with them online and continue the conversation!

3. Turn On And Use Your Phone*

I’m sure you’ve heard this statement before……Please turn off your phone as a courtesy to the speakers and others around you.  Well, I say the opposite……take it out, tweet out to the speakers, share your new found wisdom and connect with new people in the crowd on Twitter.  Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool for connecting with people that have common interests.

Now, there is a asterisk beside this point for a reason.  You should always be considerate of other people when using your phone in a live networking setting.  For example, you might use your phone during a presentation to share what you are learning with your Twitter followers.  But you should never be texting, tweeting, etc when talking with someone one-on-one.  Give them your full attention and pick your spot to tweet!

4. Follow Up With People You Meet

PLEASE…..make a point to follow up with everyone you meet at a live networking event.  Even if it’s as simple as connecting on Linkedin….make the effort to follow up.  But, even better, if you see an opportunity to introduce them to someone in your network that they would benefit from meeting, follow up with an introduction.

Or, if you both agree that there might be an opportunity to work together, follow up and line up that coffee meeting.  Remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for!  So, take proactive action to keep the conversation going!

Are You Ready To Put These Tips Into Action?

offline networkingIf you are looking for an event to put all of this new found knowledge into action, then consider coming out to the Vancouver Business, Marketing and Entrepreneur Meetup event that I am speaking at on March 20, 2012. I will be speaking on a panel with 4 others talking about how you can get more out of Linkedin.

But, remember, Meetup events are all about MEETING new people. So, although it’s always good to show up to learn something new, that should only be 20% of why you are there. The other 80% of your effort should be focused on using the tips above to connect with new people.

And, as a speaker, I can honestly say that I am thrilled every time someone comes up to talk to me after a presentation.  So, if you are going to make a point to meet five new people on March 20th, come say hi to me and make it four new people that you have to meet! Perhaps we can work together or I can help connect you to someone in my network…..you just never know? 🙂

And, even though I didn’t discuss it in this article, if you need a reminder of what NOT to do at a networking event, check out the video below.

How Not To Network

Do you have an interesting story to tell about how Linkedin has helped open doors for you or helped you connect with someone you thought you’d never meet?  If so, please leave a comment below and tell me your story.