Online Networking vs Face-to-Face Networking
With the growth of the internet, the possibilities of interacting with other people expanded hugely. For professionals this meant more ways to meet people who would become partners, mentors and colleagues in the future, which was traditionally only available through face-to-face communication before. Ranging from instant messages and Emails to having group video calls and even interacting with others in real-time VR, online networking has become the quickest and easiest way to contact other individuals or groups. But does that make it the best way?
Online networking has become even more important due to current world events making online networking the only way to meet new professionals and stay in touch with your team and other communities. It helps you reach people you wouldn’t have reached otherwise, by giving you access to vast audiences of relevant people to you. Instant contact with team members and partners has drastically improved productivity, people are no longer waiting for people to pick-up their phones to confirm minor details which are needed to progress, rather a simple message over social media or email can get an answer much quicker.
According to HubSpot, 41% of networkers want to network more frequently but don’t have enough time. For these people, online networking allows them to interact with others, despite their busy schedules. This could be participating in some forum debates or just commenting on some LinkedIn posts, but that interaction may spawn any number of leads.
However as with anything online, you don’t get the experience of speaking to someone in person. In a business sense, this results in you not being able to observe someone's tone of voice, facial ques, eye contact, handshake and other expressions or gestures. Instead, all parties involved in conversation have time to read a post or conversation then think about their response thoroughly before replying. This makes conversations less pragmatic. While this can reduce awkwardness and will allow each party give the most appropriate and best response, it also means you may miss the persons true intent behind the message.
HubSpot claim that 68% of entry-level professionals value face-to-face networking more than online networking, indicating that when beginning a new career or job, especially in a different industry, face-to-face networking will better help you understand the people in that industry and how your position is seen by others.
As opposed to Online networking, face-to-face allows you to read body language and the effectiveness of the delivery of information improves as a result. People retain more information when observing a person’s speech, gestures, tone and expressions than simply reading the information or hearing it alone. Face-to-face networking is more likely to gain the full attention of people involved in a conversation since they are paying attention to such things, or just to be polite. Furthermore, setting a good impression is much easier with Face-to-face networking, because you can see how someone dresses, carries themselves and starts a conversation. This gives you an indication going into a conversation how to best approach them or behave. With online networking, yes you can research who you will be talking to, but how they behave online publicly may be a façade compared to how they really operate.
Face-to-face networking can lead to more memorable experiences due to the unpredictability of conversation. This could help you better remember useful conversations, or just have a more enjoyable time networking, although with unpredictability comes the chance of awkward encounters whether you mishear someone’s name or career, or you simply don’t know what to do.
At Server Case UK, we feel a combination of both networking approaches can work out well, by using online networking to enter and interact with large communities, then real-world conversations and experiences to cement those connections with the key individuals.
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