Offline vs online business networking: Which is best? – Guest Blog
This week your guest blog comes from Chris Marr. Chris is someone I’ve known for almost 12 months, we first met through Stefan Thomas‘ Periscopes, then we connected on Twitter. I finally met him last October at Stefan Thomas’ Networking retreat. I will never forget that meeting. Chris was flying down from Edinburgh for the retreat, he then had to get a train from London to Oxford and then a cab to the retreat. As you can guess, this trip didn’t go swimmingly and he ran up against delays, finally when he got the venue we were on breakout time, Chris walked round the corner, gave me a hug and said
“It’s awesome to meet a friend, that was a heck of a trip but what a smile to get welcomed by”.
or something like that!
So you see connecting online really does work and build friendships, so I can’t think of a better person than Chris to explain to you Offline vs online business networking: Which is best?
Here’s what Chris has written to help you all.
Over the past few years you may have attended 100s of business networking events. You may even be a member of several business networking organisations.
How effective are these offline networking activities are for your personal and business growth?
You may be looking for something different, or perhaps something to add to your valuable offline business networking activities, and may be considering joining an online business network.
To help you along with your decision making I’d like to discuss the difference between joining an online business network vs joining a local networking group or business networking organisation.
Time & convenience
There no argument that time is our most valuable asset. We only have so many hours in the day.
With local networking events you will have to consider travel time, time at the event and any follow up meetings.
With an online network you can remain connected with your network for a small amount of time everyday, from anywhere in the world, and from any device.
You don’t have to be at a specific venue at a specific time, and there’s no travel time. This is time you can use for building deeper connections, marketing, sales and growing your business.
There’s a similar theme here with offline and online business networks – you have to show up frequently over a long period of time so people can get to know and trust you.
With offline networking this typically means showing up in the same place every week for a few hours, then perhaps following up with some 1-2-1 meetings.
With online networking you can show up frequently on a daily basis to get involved in conversations, share resources and help your peers.
We all know how important it is to build trust, which is built over a longer period of time of frequent interaction.
The obvious difference here is that you turn up in person at offline business networking, and virtually with online networks.
There is technology available to us today for facilitating live group video calls, which is a very effective method, especially when you consider building a global network and saving time.
There are so many different ways to facilitate an offline networking meeting. Perhaps the most popular set-up is 20-40 people in a room in a local hotel around breakfast time to talk about and pitch their business.
The obvious challenge comes when there’s more people in the room – you can’t meet everyone and it can be really difficult to make an impact.
With online business networks you can reach more people at scale, not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of geography and business sectors/industries.
With the online model a ‘room’ with 100 people becomes far easier to navigate and communicate with.
Ideally you want to ‘be in a room’ with the right type of people. People you have something in common with and that you get on with.
In both online and offline networking it can take time to find the best network for you. My advice is that you do take the time to spend time with a network of people you really enjoy being with.
The culture should be an important aspect of your selection.
Typically offline business networking is geared towards referrals and passing business between a group of people, and in most cases everyone is in it for themselves.
This isn’t for everyone, especially those of us who are ‘givers’ first. Typically online business networks are built around helping, sharing and adding value. The philosophy is entirely different.
It really depends on what your own purpose is – to get business, or to grow and strengthen your network.
The reality is that there needs to be a mix of online networking and offline networking activities. The main lesson here is to choose your networks carefully, because no matter what you decide to do it’s going to take a lot of your time and effort to build strong and effective connections.
When it comes to your own personal philosophy and behaviour, this should be the same regardless if you are part of online or offline business networks.
As with all networks, you get out what you put in. If you are prepared to take the time to add value and build strong trusted connections, people will in turn value you and want to return that value to you.
Is this a good time for you to audit where you are spending your time?
What are your favourite online and offline business networks?
What challenges do you have with growing your network?
Join the conversation int he comments section below.
Chris runs The Content Marketing Academy a network of people, both employed and self employed, who help and support each other with guidance on everything from personal issues to business issues. I have been a member since January, I absolutely love the Slack group for advice and support, Chris makes himself available to all the members for any help, especially online marketing and growing their business through online system, software and content. Click here for more information on the Academy, or here for information on the amazing conference Chris and his team put on each year.