Don't Enjoy Face-to-Face Networking? Here Are Some Alternatives.

Photo by Brittany Gaiser on Unsplash

​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 is thriving more than ever.

Here's why I have never enjoyed in-person networking:
  • I usually 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 :)

The only time I’ll make the effort to attend a face-to-face gathering is if I’m the speaker, given time to speak to the audience for at least 30 minutes.

Otherwise, don’t count on my RSVP…

The Time Cost of In-Person Networking:

  • The time it takes to get yourself looking professional 
  • The time (and energy) it takes to commute to the event
  • The hours spent at the event, hoping you’ll meet the right person
  • The time spent commuting home
  • The time spent decompressing/recovering from the event
  • There may have been an event fee
  • The lost opportunity to do other things, that could have helped you really connect with the right people (see list below.)

Total time it cost you to go to a face-to-face networking meeting? 3–4 hours front to end… maybe more.

If you don't thoroughly enjoy such events, then there are better things to do with your time.

Here are smart ways to spend those 3–4 hours instead: thoughtfully connect with 10 of the right people online. You'll be doing more, with less energy and time! 

Where to Find The Right People Online?

Use the search function in any online social network to find just the right person you want to network with.

  • 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. 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 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. InstagramPinterestor even Youtube, 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 thoughtfully connect with people in the real world? Take that same etiquette and bring it online. You say something nice about them (be genuine and it won't feel like empty flattery). You don’t try to sell them your products/services right away. You see where you have mutual interests. You see how you might be able to help them, or how you might benefit one another.

  • Try privately messaging them on whatever platform you found them on. If you don’t get a response, then simply google their name. You’ll often find a website through which you can contact them.

  • It takes practice. With experience, you'll build up your speed and thoughtfulness in reaching out to the right people online. I encourage you to reach out to 100 people (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 this, 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 10-12 of the right people. In a physical networking meeting, with that same amount of time, 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.

Create Content so that Others Reach Out To You

An alternative to reaching out is to spend your time creating and distributing content.

In 3 hours, you could make a video or write a blog post and then buy a Facebook Ad for $15 to reach 1,000 of the right people.

Learn how to use Facebook Ads for “detailed targeting” and “lookalike audiences.” To learn it from me, take my online course re: Facebook Ads.

By creating and distributing content, you’re building credibility and connections with many people at once. You will attract an audience and the right people will reach out to you — potential clients and referral sources.

Either way, whether you get skillful at online networking, or content creation, you will be spending your time wisely, instead of rubbing elbows with strangers.

You might of course enjoy being with groups of people. If so, do it socially! Imagine just doing it for fun, without the pressure or performance-anxiety of professional networking.