The importance of networking has long been understood by business professionals in a variety of fields, but virtually everyone can benefit from a bit of coordinated networking experience. Today, it's common to do a great deal of communication over the Internet; indeed, entire business transactions can be completed without the two parties ever meeting face to face or even speaking over the phone. However, professionals who give network advice recommend that it's nonetheless important to be adept at networking face to face as well in order to gain maximum benefits for your career.
The Value of the Personal Connection
While communicating via email or other digital methods can be very convenient, it does not establish the same type of personal connection that a face to face conversation does. Setting up a personal meeting shows that you are willing and interested in taking the time to engage the other party. It allows you the chance to express yourself in a more personal way. Conversation can oftentimes be freer and more convenient when it is done in person rather than over email or a telephone.
Business cards and other tangible items which are shared among business professionals are a great way of leaving a lasting impression on people that you meet. Exchanging information is not possible in the same way when your networking experience is done over the Internet. Having a professional business card or other informational item prepared to give anyone who you meet is a great way to network.
Possibility of Additional Networking Opportunities
Many of the situations that facilitate networking in real life allow you the opportunity to meet with many more people than you might be able to find online. For instance, at a conference or social event for your industry, there are likely to be a host of professionals whom you may interact who may also be potentially beneficial contacts for you down the line. Your access to all of these people at one time is something that can only be achieved with networking in real life, not online.
One of the most important elements of networking face to face is that you can then follow up with continued networking online. Many people will be much more likely to communicate with you if they've already met you in person first. Be sure to acquire any potential contact's email, telephone number or other contact information when you speak with him in person. Then, after you've left and gone separate ways, follow up your in person conversation with an email or other online communication. This will ensure that you will leave a strong impression and will make it more likely that you'll continue to be in communication with that person in the future.
All of these benefits are not to say that networking online is not also potentially beneficial. In fact, a combination of networking in real life and online will be the best way to expand your contacts and opportunities.