Online networking allows you to meet lots of people who you otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet. Instead of one-to-one networking, you can do one-to-thousands networking, and still have some level of intimacy. You can enhance your brand as a thought leader or subject matter expert, and learn from the best minds in a particular space. You can do it on your own time, from your own house… and you don’t even have to brush your teeth or comb your hair before you start!
Offline networking allows you to develop intimate relationships one-on-one where you can communicate with passion and excitement communicating with your voice fluctionation, body language, facial express, and touch. It’s a great opportunity to really get to know people, learn about their quirks, needs, desires, etc. in a setting where you both can devote your complete attention to one another. You can put your best foot forward and guage reactions immediately. And brushing teeth, combing hair, getting dressed up and actually talking with other human beings is a good thing 🙂
Of course, there are draw backs. Online it’s easy to trust someone who isn’t who you think they are. Not getting a timely response might lead you to draw wrong conclusions. Information overload grabs at our attention, and we can easily communicate something that is misunderstood (without being able to immediately know it’s misunderstood). It’s sometimes so easy that we overextend ourselves and drown in information and contacts, not really able to do anything but flounder.
Offline networking is a challenge because we have to dedicate time and gas money to travel to and from, sometimes pay for event or meals, go to an event where there aren’t enough of our target contacts (or there are too many, and not enough time), and my biggest challenge, weighing the opportunity cost in the in-person networking vs. what I could do from my office.
So which is better? Either may be more appropriate for different objectives, but both can and should be used in a complementary strategy. Don’t choose one or the other – do both.