In a decade where everybody is on at least one social network, it's easy to forget that once upon a time people did their social networking face to face. That's a bad thing to forget, since a Forbes study reveals that people found face-to-face interaction more persuasive and trustworthy than interaction via the Internet by a margin of 80 percent.
This isn't to say you should abandon your online social media platform. It's still the most cost-effective way to reach new people. You just need to remember that it's best used as a means to get face time with new prospects, not a replacement for it. Ready to get out from behind your computer screen and meet some people? These tips can help.
1. Join the Chamber of Commerce
Your local chamber of commerce hosts multiple classes, meetings and presentations every month, attended by your peers in the community. This is indispensable if you offer business-to-business services and still highly valuable if you do most of your business with the public. In either case, you'll be forging those closer relationships and establishing the trust that makes face time so powerful.
Bonus points for not only attending a class, which most chambers offer, but also teaching one. Attending builds your skills in areas you're not yet an expert. Teaching shows everybody why they need to buy from you.
2. Break Out Your Dating Moves
No, that doesn't mean putting on your v-neck shirt and trying out cheesy new pick-up lines. But meeting and creating relationships with new prospective business partners can be a lot like meeting and creating relationships with a new prospective romantic partner. Use all the best practices you use (or used to use) on a first date. Be polite. Talk more about the other person than you do about yourself. Never wait for a "second date" to show off your best talents, because without them, that second chance won't come.
Bonus points for not using the classic "wait three days to call" dating doctrine. Follow up with an email or social media ping that day, or the following morning at the latest.
3. Dress the Part
Every face-to-face meeting has a dress code, and the dress codes differ. A business insurance conference in New York City requires different dress than a writers' conference in Eugene, Oregon. The more you "go native" for whatever kind of mixer or meeting you attend, the more comfortable your fellow attendees will be with you. If you're not sure how to dress, check the event's website for photos of the last event by the same group.
Bonus points for dressing the "part +1." Dressing slightly better than everybody else gives you an air of authority and success ... but only go slightly better, otherwise this will backfire. Wear slacks and a polo to a casual event, not a suit. Wear a suit to a business casual event, but not a tux.
4. Go to the Other Conferences
A writer who goes to a writer's conference will meet a lot of peers and learn some valuable things about the trade, but very few people, if any, will need his skills. That same writer who goes to a trade conference for self-employed plumbers will be the only writer in a room full of people who need his skills. The same goes for whatever your business offers.
Bonus points for presenting at that other conference. Even things that are trivial to you and your competitors or peers will be new and exciting to people in other fields. It makes you look smart, and introduces you to everybody in the room all at once.
When you get home from your face-to-face networking time, jump into social media to make the connections that let you capitalize on what you accomplished in person. Neither sort of social networking is better or worse than the other, but the combination of the two is more than twice as powerful as either one alone.
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Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at his website.
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