In this digital age of online networking and social media, it's easy to stay behind the screen (mobile, laptop or otherwise) and never truly meet the people you "network" with in person.
Other than your friends, colleagues at work or family, how many people in your social network have you actually MET?
I'm a true believer in taking online relationships to the next level - in-person.
When I created LinkedIn Live Raleigh in 2007, that was the concept: in-person networking with your social media contacts.
There is, however, a reluctance to meet people you only know online. Especially if there is no apparent benefit for meeting them. This is where one of my favorite sayings comes from:
TAKE THE MEETING!
I have found time and time again that someone I thought would not be a client, or more importantly to me, someone I could help, actually turned out to be one of my best in-person contacts.
ALL of my best corporate jobs and my biggest clients have come not from the person I met with, but from their referral to the person who hired me.
Think of it this way: what would happen if you didn't meet with (fill in the blank)? Would you miss that next client referral or miss meeting a person who becomes a good friend?
"Taking a meeting" is hard from some. Here's a few tips to make it easier:
1. Set a time limit - "I can meet at Starbucks for 30 minutes on Monday...." That way if the meeting isn't what you thought it would be, you have a definitive end time. BUT if it's going well, you can continue the conversation.
2. Set a clear, albeit somewhat open-ending agenda. "Tell me about you and your business and I'll fill you in on mine."
3. Be clear that this is a "get to know each other" meeting with no set expectations. Some people expect something out of everyone they meet - and by letting them know that you just want to meet to learn more about them, you temper that expectation.
4. Finally understand that you are in control. By meeting in a public place where you can easily leave at a set end time, you are not obligated to stay longer than you feel comfortable.
So, the next time you "connect" with someone interesting through LinkedIn, take a minute to decide if you want to find out more about them by meeting in person.
More importantly, if you are asked by a new connection to meet in person, seriously consider it. Take the meeting; you never know what might happen!
Chuck Hester is the Chief Communications Officer for Big Think Innovation, a business architect consultancy that helps companies plan, grow and build their futures. He is also a LinkedIn trainer and speaker, helping businesses get the most out of LinkedIn, while teaching them how to communicate effectively. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need help with LinkedIn? Feel free to message Chuck and ask about one-on-one and group LinkedIn Executive Training.