Does anyone still believe in face-to-face networking? That was a question posted on one of the many social media driven business groups that I somehow find myself in. Stupid question I thought, and I deleted the email that alerted me to the post. Of course face-to-face networking is still alive. Why would anyone ask that question? My schedule is peppered with these types of meetings. They are on my schedule for a reason. I believe they work, so it must be alive and well!
As often happens, this question kept running around in my head for the next several days. What if I’m wrong, what if it is dead? Perhaps it is dead and no one had the courtesy to tell me. Perish the thought, but maybe I was actually wrong on this one. As a company, we spend a lot of money on these types of things. They must be worth it, right? Well, now that the seeds of doubt had been sown, I did what we all do, I jumped on my computer and went straight to the Internet and did some research. I must admit, I was a bit relieved when my search results confirmed face-to-face networking is alive and well. In fact, some believe it is getting stronger; which, for a guy like me, is good news.
I’m an analog guy in a digital world. With cell phones, tablets, laptops, notebooks, virtual reality, wireless everything, technology is unbelievable and in so many ways, completely overwhelming. Yep, I’m that guy now, you know the one in the cartoons, that cranky old man that starts everything out with “in my day” with a sneer on his face looking over round wire-rim glasses. With the exception of the glasses, I have become that guy. Before we get too far along, I am not opposed to technology. In fact, in many respects I love it. My business and my personal life would be very different without it, but I still feel like a dinosaur. We are living in a time of incredible advances in technology and staggering connectedness, and yet, we seem to be moving further and further away from really being able to communicate.
Years ago, United Airlines ran a commercial where it showed people getting on airplanes to reconnect with their clients instead of giving them a call or sending them a fax. Today it is not even a fax or a call, it is a post on social media or a text – a call or a fax would be incredibly personable. Forget getting on a plane and seeing people face-to-face, the closest we come to that is Skype or Video Conferencing. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with face-to-face networking? When I started doing research it became clear that face-to-face interaction is more beneficial now than ever before. There are things that you pick up when you are standing in a room having a conversation that you otherwise miss or don’t see at all, regardless of the advances in technology. Have you ever read an email and completely misinterpreted the message because the tone of voice was missing, or thought someone was angry when they were not? Tone and body language are hard, if not impossible, to identify electronically, but much easier to communicate and understand in person.
If you really want to get to know me, and me to know you, meet me in person. I get a much better sense and read on people when I meet them. Conversations face-to-face are often deeper and honestly less distracted. You can’t check emails, write blogs, or even play games if the person is standing right in front of you. Not to sound crass, but you have a better chance of getting a good referral, introduction, or even closing the deal when you meet in person. So if you think that face-to-face networking is dead you are sorely mistaken. It is alive and well. A word to the wise – take a little time and pick up the phone, or better yet, get out from behind all of that technology and go shake a few hands and see the world.