While blogging may be considered something you can do from the comfort of your own home, never underestimate the power of meeting with people face to face. Whether it's fellow bloggers, brands you're interested in working with, industry contacts or just some really interesting people, getting to talk one on one in person is absolutely invaluable. Tiffany Mayer shares more on the importance of in person networking.
By day, Ryan Moran sells Niagara as a travel and tourism destination. By night, he’s busy building Hamilton’s freelance economy.
In other words, Moran, the senior marketing manager for the Niagara Parks Commission and co-founder of CoMotion coworking and event spaces, puts himself out there — constantly.
He’s busy pitching to media, including us food bloggers, all that Niagara Parks has to offer, and striking up partnerships with national, provincial and local destination marketing organizations to spread the word about attractions along the Niagara River. Then he goes home to sell CoMotion’s properties as places for freelancers and entrepreneurs to build their businesses.
Moran doesn’t do it by hitting send on emails and keeping his fingers crossed for a response. He does it by closing his laptop and meeting with people face-to-face.
Aside from it being part of his job description, Moran knows there’s huge value in connecting in person. It builds meaningful relationships that are the key to success, he explains.
“You need to build support, otherwise you won’t build anything,” says Moran, who attends about three professional networking events a month. “Everything I’ve done has always been because I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly talented, insightful people.”
There are plenty of numbers to back up the value of in-person networking. According to stats published on the Virgin website, 95 percent of respondents to a survey about networking said face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
Nearly 30 percent more ideas are generated during tête-a-têtes compared to virtual meetings, too. That might have something to do with the perception that in-person interactions are more credible than those that happen online.
And let’s face it, we’re social creatures, so it’s no surprise that 84 percent of respondents said they prefer in-person meetings. They give us the chance to connect with other humans, but we also get to read body language, pick up on tone of voice and glean so much more about a person than we can from an email or DM.
Those figures are important to remember as more of us get comfy behind a computer at home rather than a corporate setting. Face-to-face meetings could be what lands a fruitful partnership with a brand you love, or gets you the better story from a chef you interview for a post.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for networking success.
Where Do I Start?
Look for industry events in your community (ahem, FBC2016!). Chambers of commerce, trade events, and coworking spaces are great places to start connecting with people. “Know what kind of people attend, what they offer, what they represent and who they are, and make a point of striking up a conversation,” Moran suggests. “In fact, dare yourself to do it.”
Make it a goal to speak to at least one person and build up your confidence from there, he adds. One person might sound easy to some, but keep in mind it’s about the quality of interactions, not the quantity.
Ask Good Questions
Of course, that will depend on what you hope to gain from networking. Is it a mentor? General information? A profit-making endeavour? To make the most of that Business After 5 event, do some research on the people attending beforehand to determine who you want to meet and what to ask them. “Ask good questions and find out who gives the best answer,” Moran says. “Avoid asking the typical ‘What do you do?’”
Know Your Own Story and Value
Moran is a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. One thing that really stood out for him when reading it is that men are more likely to credit themselves for their success while women tend to spread that recognition around, minimizing their own role in their achievements.
At networking events, tap into that male tendency, no matter who you are. “It will be difficult to get anywhere without recognizing your own strengths,” he says.
Remain true to yourself when you’re espousing those virtues, though. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. You’ll be more confident simply by being yourself, and that will come across to whomever you meet.
It’s a given to always be polite and respectful but that goes beyond remembering to shake someone’s hand and thank them for their time.
It also means being a good listener. Understanding what a person is trying to do and what you can do to help them is as important as determining how they can help you. “(Networking) is a lot of listening and understanding of a person’s perspective,” Moran explains. “You’re building a relationship and it needs to be reciprocated and filled with patience and value for the other person.”
Not Every Relationship Will Work Out
And that’s OK. Though Moran is never quick to write anyone off — “There’s value in every relationship” — it’s critical to develop your character judgment. It’s also important to remember that if a connection isn’t made, “it’s not about you.” It’s OK to move on.
And when you do…
“Always have gum.”
No explanation needed.
In Your Face: The Value of In-Person Networking was written by Tiffany Mayer, a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at eatingniagara.com. You can also listen to her newly launched food podcast, Grub.