It’s safe to say that online networking has started to overshadow face-to-face networking and meetings in general. With this fast-paced society it’s much easier to do a quick Hangout or Skype chat than meeting your prospective client at a local coffee shop.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t need offline networking. In contrary, people still want to feel that they are building relationships and making connections with ‘real people’. Having a small offline network with whom you regularly connect means much more than thousands of faceless Twitter followers.
Maybe you feel that some of your online networking connections could become the ideal offline connection or even friend. Making the switch from online to offline doesn’t need to be a brain teaser. Just follow these tips:
Find a Common Interest
A lot of the time in business you’ll see prospective partners or clients going for a game of golf or a squash session, which doesn’t really replicate a business meeting. But that’s the needed edge in winning over your client, find common ground with the person you want to connect with. This way you will have something to talk about other than the business topic that connected you in the first place.
This is also a way of showing the other person that you are interested in their lifestyle and hobbies and that the relationship could be more than just a few tweets back and forth. If you’re not sure what the other person is interested in go through their photos, likes and general tweets to find something that you relate to.
Change your Communication Methods
The first step in trying to connect with your online network in person is by changing the way in which you communicate. Instead of just chatting with them via your social networks ask for a more personal contact detail. This could be an email address or telephone number. If they are willing to share this information it shows that you might be getting somewhere with the networking process.
Follow in their Steps
At first you might be feeling like a bit of a stalker, but soon enough you will realize that everyone is doing it. Keep an eye on which events and meet-ups your online friends are attending. Don’t make it too obvious by going to a crochet-class just because a prospective client might be there, but if it’s a seminar or workshop that will be beneficial to you, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go.
You could either inform them that you are going or just play it as a coincidence. This would depend on the level of your relationship and their hierarchy within the industry.
Invite Them To Meet-ups
Take control by inviting your online networks to offline meet-ups. This isn’t always possible as some of your connections might be sitting on the other side of the world, but it’s a great way to meet other business professionals in your area.
Not everyone is aware of all the networking possibilities around them, so by being the informant you immediately gain credibility and come across as being informative and approachable.
Give Free Advice
People are suckers for freebies. Use your expertise to your advance by giving advice to those interested. Identify something that someone in your online network might be struggling with and suggest being of service to them. This could be via a coffee date or you could create workshops if you feel more individuals might benefit. Without knowing it you could be creating another platform for people to network.
Taking your online networking offline could be quite daunting at first, but once you have a strategy in place it you will become a networking guru in no time. When attending offline networking events remember to come across as relaxed, open-minded and approachable. Don’t sound desperate about making a sale or a valuable connection. In some ways business networking is very similar to dating, so play it cool.
Image Courtesy: Executives International