Unless you’ve lived in a bomb shelter your whole life, whether you know it or not, you already do real-world networking, because it’s basic human nature. All throughout our lives, I’m sure most of us networked in one way or another. From kindergarten, being friends with the rich kid who had the really cool crayons that would let you use them, to high school, hitting up that girl that thought you were cute for a free ice-cream cone where she works, to our adult business lives. It’s all about the perks.
I’ve gone to a few local business owner meetings in the past and I’ve got to tell you, stay away. On paper, when I got the invitation, it sounded great. Go to lunch (first lunch is on them), meet with local business owners, pass out some business cards, and network. You can discuss perks and discounts you might help each other out with, etc. Then, you find out that there’s a much larger corporate company behind these meetings, and really, it’s all about their agenda.
They give their spiel about how great it is to come to the meetings and then the real catcher, the $300/yearly membership fee. So, I’m sitting around this table with a bunch of local business owners, which is great and authentic, but there’s just this one corporate representative (think AVON lady) there as well. My logical mind is already at work. It gets to the end and to the “Does anyone have any questions?” portion, asked by this corporate rep and I was so tempted:
“Yeah, I have a question. Why do we need you? Why are we paying $300 a year for the privilege to come to these meetings? We’re all intelligent adults here, obviously we are all self-employed. Why don’t we just decide to come to meetings each week on our own?”
But, I kept it to myself and made a mental note to be done with these middleman networking meetings. The important lesson to be learned is that real-world networking has always been apart of our lives. In business, it can be effective, but it should be natural and one-on-one, not a shady company tapping into a market and exploiting business owners.
I might be biased (because my work is all online), but I think online networking is far more effective for all industries. Why? First, because any modern business that’s serious needs a website and some sort of online social media presence. Second, because not only can you reach locals, you can reach the whole world, and many more of each, much quicker. Also, networking online can actually lead to more real-world events and conventions.
I’ve been invited to countless conventions, but I don’t want to be integrated that much necessarily. I keep a fine separation between my personal and business life. In-person time, phone calls, and texts, I prefer to reserve for my personal life and stick to Email and IM for business.