I spent some time this week connecting with contacts that I hadn’t seen in some time, and was reminded of the value and importance of doing so in person. Technology has given all of us plenty of opportunity to connect electronically and, as result, an in-person touch may be inappropriately devalued in today’s business world. I worked for a boss years ago who insisted on doing business face-to-face, and I’ve always appreciated the many benefits of shaking a hand – a new one or a familiar one – and looking another professional in the eye. Here are five reasons why in-person networking opportunities are (still!) so important:
First, relationships are about connecting – and there’s no easier way to get a read on a chemistry fit than connecting voice-to-voice, and looking eye-to-eye. There’s really no need for interpretation – you are there and you “get” if you and the person with whom you are speaking authentically connect. And, you know early on if that connection can be leveraged.
Second, good things often happen because of timing, and networking events give PR people the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. You might shake hands with someone who’s current PR provider dropped the ball on a particular topic, or if you meet someone who hasn’t yet experienced the many benefits of a well-executed communications initiative. (Note: This is one of the many reasons why I think it’s important to attend events that are sector specific, rather than those designed specifically for PR or communications professionals.)
Third, you can further your agency’s brand awareness by making a good impression. You can push your organization’s key messages by delivering them directly, and by doing so, those with whom you connect can contribute to the momentum your shop may be currently experiencing. I can’t count how many times I have been able to amplify what someone has heard about Matter when meeting them. It’s powerful to be able to provide proof points as to what he or she has heard about current events at our agency.
Fourth, networking events give all professionals an opportunity to sharpen their interpersonal skills. Networking is a “soft” activity – saying hello, meeting one another – and there’s no hard pitch. That being said, they still require attendees to be attentive and content-rich, find smart and savvy ways to transition subjects, and apply what you’ve heard to what you offer the market. It’s a challenge – and one that faces so many of us in new business meetings – and it never hurts to sharpen those skills once in a while.
And, finally, networking events give any smart professional an opportunity to gain some objective market perspective. You step out of the office vacuum and hear from other professionals about what’s important to them, and often what you hear will impact your approach to doing business. You may learn of a void in the market that your agency can fill, or perhaps a need that should be addressed in the form of a new service or offering. In any case, what’s important is that any solid networking event gives you the opportunity to learn from potential customers.
What am I missing, and do you still prioritize networking events?