Photo by brittanyg on Unsplash

Forget in-person networking…

I haven’t gone to a networking meeting or conference in more than 5 years.

Yet, I have a people-centric business (training/coaching/mentoring)… and it’s thriving more than ever.

I don’t know about you, but I never enjoyed in-person networking:

  • I often find myself in a corner, too shy to insert myself into another conversation or introduce myself.
  • If I do strike up a conversation with someone nice, I end up talking (more like listening) to that person for the rest of the time. I’m not bold enough to end the connection, and my conversation partner thinks I’m fascinating because I keep asking them to talk about themselves :)

Otherwise, don’t count on my RSVP…

The Time Cost of In-Person Networking:

  • The time it takes to get yourself looking professional (and hope you have your professional outfit ready to wear!)
  • The time (and energy) it takes to commute to the event
  • The hours spent at the event, hoping you’ll meet just the right person (rarely happens)
  • The time spent commuting home
  • The time spent decompressing/recovering from the event
  • There may even be an event fee you had to pay
  • The lost opportunity to do other things, that could have helped you really connect with the right people!

Total time it cost you to go to an in-person networking meeting? Probably 3–4 hours front to end… maybe more.

There are better things to do with your time.

If you care about growing your business, here are smarter ways to spend those 3–4 hours, instead of in-person networking:

1. Reach Out to The Right People Online

Imagine showing up at a meeting and immediately being able to teleport to just the right person you want to meet.

  • Linkedin has more than 562 million members in 200 countries/territories— the largest gathering of professionals. Log into your Linkedin account and use the search bar at the top of the screen to look for the kind of person you’d like to network with.
  • Twitter has more than 300 million users, and many of them use it professionally. Play around with Twitter’s advanced search and use keywords that your ideal connection might be tweeting about.
  • Facebook is of course the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, many of whom add their professional titles to their profile (therefore it’s searchable) or have a professional page sharing their expertise. Log into your Facebook account, and use the Search bar at the top, and try a few keywords for the kind of person you’d like to network with.
  • Whatever social media site you enjoy using, e.g. Instagram, Pinterest, or even Youtube (some consider it a social network too), every platform has its own search function that will quickly bring you to the kind of people you might want to connect with.

How to reach out?

  • Think about how you connect with people offline: You see if they’re interested in connecting. You try to talk about them first. You don’t try to sell them anything (at least not right away.) You see where you have mutual interests. You see how you might benefit one another.
  • Try privately messaging them on whatever platform you found them on. If you don’t get a response (or you cannot because you’re not directly connected to them), then simply google their name. You’ll often find a website through which you can contact them.
  • It takes practice. Just like with in-person networking, and instead of that, you can build up your experience with reaching out to the right people online. I encourage you to reach out to 100 people (thoughtfully, over time) before judging whether online networking works for you. It will take you a lot less time than in networking.
  • To speed up your learning, find a coach/mentor, or perhaps you’ve got a friend who is happy to help you get better at it, reviewing your connection messages and making suggestions.

In the same 3 or 4 hours it takes you to do in-person networking, you could research and thoughtfully connect to maybe 12–16 of the right people. In a physical networking meeting you’d be lucky to find 3-4 people that you actually want to connect with.

Sure, you won’t have a 100% connection rate, but that’s also true with in-person networking… even when you follow up!

Try it out. It saves time, and can build your business more quickly.

2. Create Content so that Others Reach Out To You

An alternative is content creation.

In 3 hours, you could probably make a video or write a blog post (it doesn’t have to be as lengthy as my posts!) and then buy a Facebook Ad for $15 to reach 1,000 of the right people.

This way, you’re building credibility and connections with many people at once. You draw others to reach out to you — potential clients and referral sources — instead of you reaching out to them.

Either way, whether you get skillful at online networking, or content creation, you will spend time more wisely, compared to networking in-person with strangers.

Of course you may enjoy being with groups of people. If so, do it socially. Do it for fun, without the pressure of professional networking.

Authentic Business Coach & Author of 4 Books including "Authentic Content Marketing" and "Joyful Productivity"