Tuesday, July 24, 2007

66 Tips For Better Networking - #19

Route 66 - The Journey Toward Success

Meet Your Virtual Network

In the modern post internet world many business professionals have developed "virtual friends" through business, on-line social networking sites, and personal hobbies. While being linked to someone is never the same as actually knowing them in a face-to-face way, these people can still be an important part of our personal and professional lives.

When these people are geographically near, it is a natural occurrence that you will eventually meet in person. Being able to spend some time with your "friends" in a real life situation gives you a the ability to really get to know them. In a virtual world we never really know a person, as most communication is non-verbal (or non-typed), and thus seeing them gives us the full picture. If you live far apart, meeting is usually less convenient, but still an important step in cultivating a real relationship.

I recently heard a story of a woman who met the love of her life through an online dating site, although he lived in another state. After a year of emails and phone calls they met in person. He was not tall, fit, young, handsome, single or employed. He had invented all of these qualities and was able to hide behind the facts that she had never seen him. The same thing is true of business professionals you meet on-line....you still need to actually meet someone to really know their character, personality and motivations.

I try to make it a habit of meeting my on-line friends for coffee when I am traveling on business or pleasure to their cities. I only do this with those whom I have actually come to know well (not just someone I had exchanged an occasional email, but rather a person with whom I have done business or had extensive conversations).

What is great about this is that you get to have a more full calendar on your trip, and it almost always a lot of fun to "put a face with a name".

I recently did this on my trip to Ireland when I got to meet Ireland's premier business expert on the topic of networking and personal branding, Tricia Murphy. Tricia and I had traded many emails, and she had referred many of her clients to The Networking Quotient Quiz. Additionally she had read one of my books, and helped my family find our Irish travel agent. I felt as though I already knew Tricia, but because she lives 6000 miles away, we had never met. The result? We had a wonderful two hour breakfast and are now better friends. She was delightful to talk with and my whole family enjoyed meeting with her, as it was great to learn more about Ireland from a Dubliner. She lived up to her reputation, and I look forward to continuing having her as part of my network!

It is beneficial to meet your virtual friends in your network, as it is these types of encounters that transcend them from "virtual friends" to "friends".

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: We live in a dangerous world, so you need to be careful when meeting people whom you met on the internet. Women especially need to be cautious when meeting men. Always meet in a public place (like a restaurant), and not in a bar at night! Never go to their home or invite them to yours. Also be sure to let others know whom you are planning to meet while you are traveling. I know, it is sad that I have to say this, but always be cautious.

For more great tips on "On-Line Networking", check out Liz Ryan's book: Happy About On-line Networking. Also, I added a whole chapter about this in the second edition of Some Assembly Required (now available at Amazon.com!!!)

Have A Great Day.


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