The stay-at-home orders of 2020 ushered in an unprecedented period in our global history whereby everything seemed to change overnight. Our normal way of doing business – and by extension, networking with others – was suddenly reinvented.
Gone were the days of face-to-face networking meetings and events. In their place were valuable opportunities to connect with clients, prospects, and communities through virtual networking. We quickly figured out the tech side of networking in this new way, and we learned how to navigate our new normal.
But now, life has slowly returned to a sense of familiarity given that in-person networking events are becoming the norm again. Many organizations are returning to in-person events, yet many people feel divided, wondering where they stand in terms of in-person versus virtual networking meetings.
It goes without saying that there are numerous benefits and limitations to both options. Let’s take a moment to explore this in further detail.
In-person networking was forever the standard bearer when it came to meeting other people, sharing what you do and building long-lasting connections. Meeting in-person fulfills the inherent need for social interaction and the deep feelings of connection that come from being with others. Being face-to-face allows us to make more of a personal connection. And given that business is, at its core, so very personal, it certainly makes sense that for many, this is the preferred go-to means of interacting with others.
Fans of in-person networking don’t necessarily mind the travel time to an event and use it as an opportunity to be alone with their thoughts, to listen to a favorite podcast, or to do some personal and/or professional development. Being able to get out of the home/office for a while and take a break from the monotony is an excellent way for some to recharge and change up the norm. Extroverts love being around others and are fueled by these scheduled interactions.
However, it’s important to remember that there are limitations with in-person networking, as well. For many, family care needs are at the forefront of their daily life, whether it’s for a growing family or for aging parents. As such, there may be limitations around physically being able to go out during certain times of the day or for more than an hour at a time.
Transportation issues – including the rising costs of gas – and the weather are other key considerations for many.
Sitting in traffic wastes valuable time that could be better spent taking care of clients. In fact, one can lose a significant chunk of the day when accounting for the travel time to and from an event (as well as the time spent at the event itself).
Introverts can feel energetically drained by being around others, especially in large groups of people, or from having too much social interaction. It can leave one feeling exhausted, making it tough to regroup and re-center in order to go back to work afterwards.
In contrast, the benefits of virtual networking are numerous. Access to virtual meetings gives attendees a golden opportunity to remain in the comfort of your own home/office while also being able to do more networking each week.
Virtual networking can be within the local community via chamber events and other area organizations, and global networking groups have members whom you would never have met otherwise. My own professional life is so richly enhanced because of the many worldwide virtual networking attendees whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last few years.
Increased productivity is another huge benefit to networking virtually. When we’re free from many hours of travel time every month, this means valuable saved time that can then be translated into focused hours of efficiency and production for our valued clients and in our businesses. Not spending hours preparing for the event ahead of time means time spent working effectively and it’s much easier to log out of a virtual meeting and focus on a task or project, prepare for the next meeting, or simply move on with your day.
Other perks include the money saved from steadily rising gas expenses, as well as costly in-person meal fees. Additionally, introverts spend a great deal of time thinking about each event in advance in terms of: who will I sit with, how early will I show up, how quickly will I leave? Overwhelm can easily take over the mind and spirit of an introvert. Not having these important considerations can bring tremendous psychological relief.
And yet, virtual networking does also have its own restrictions that need to be carefully weighed. While it’s undeniably convenient to not have to leave the home/office and be able to have more time to devote to one’s clients and business, feelings of loneliness, disconnect and isolation can easily mount (especially if you haven’t been out for a while). Human interaction is vital to our overall well-being and it’s more challenging at times to feel connected through a screen.
Commiserate with this, in-person networking can give you a different vantage point that you wouldn’t have online. People interact with others in vastly different ways in-person versus in an online setting. How people interact in-person might sway your decision to solidify lasting professional connections.
Additionally, when a virtual networking meeting is done, everyone signs off and then off they go to the next part of their day. While some may appreciate this efficiency, others may view this as too abrupt as they long for the side bar conversations that frequently take place at the conclusion of an event (a meeting after the meeting, if you will).
So, the question that remains is, where do YOU see yourself when it comes to networking meetings? Are you happily maintaining a schedule consisting of virtual networking meetings within the global community, or have you found yourself clamoring for in-person connection with others? Or, are you a mix of both, welcoming a variety of meeting opportunities to fill your calendar?
What compels you to network with others in one way or another? I plan on revisiting this hugely trending and relevant topic again in a few months to see how peoples’ perceptions have changed, or if they’ve been reinforced. And I plan on sharing insights and feedback in terms of what people were drawn to and how things have been working out for them.
Hit “Reply” and share your thoughts about what you feel drawn to when it comes to in-person or virtual networking meetings (or a hybrid combination of the two), and why you feel pulled in this direction. If you’d like to be included in my follow-up blog post, be sure to drop your name and thoughts in the Comments below!
And if you have trouble deciding where to network next, how to get the most out of your networking, or simply need direction on what moving forward looks like, schedule a discovery call today!