What’s Old Is New Again: The Value of In-Person Networking

Back in the day, meetings and networking could only take place face-to-face. You would think that today’s technologically advanced world would have made this practice extinct, but many people stillnetworking1 believe in the power of in-person networking to create a more emphatic, memorable experience.

As one of IMA’s conference and event managers currently working on IMA’s 95th Annual Conference & Exposition, I know the value of in-person networking and see it firsthand.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition was created by the U.S. Travel Association to showcase the incredible value that business meetings, travel, and events bring to the U.S. The following are the pillars of the Coalition and are great to keep in mind when attending a conference or event.

Creating Personal Connections and Building Strong Communities

networking2One of the most valuable features of a conference is the opportunity to network. If you aren’t networking at a conference, then you’re really missing out on potential opportunities.

Networking isn’t easy for everyone, but within a conference community, there’s nothing to fear. At an event, there’s a sense of community, shared commonality, and reasoning. You can share dilemmas and solutions you’ve experienced at work and learn from others. Conversations can lead to a new job, a new idea, or a new partnership.

For example, I’ve met meeting planners from the West Coast and can reach out to them to find the best hotels in the region. I would easily trust them over other referrals because, after meeting them, I know that we understand each other’s job responsibilities and needs.

If the conference offers a “first-time attendee” orientation, I highly recommend participating. Take that last empty seat at a lunch table. Exchange ideas, connect with people, and collaborate. Swap business cards with everyone you meet and follow up on LinkedIn so when the time comes to re-connect, you’ll know how to find them or vice versa.

Driving Positive Business Outcomes

People tend to forget that conferences also are conducive to conducting business. When I attend an association or meeting management conference, I make appointments with hotel sales managers and the local convention and visitor bureaus.

In November 2013, the Crown Plaza released its first-ever Business Meetings in a Modern World global research report. Of the 2,000 business people surveyed around the world, 47% of them believed they had lost a contract or client simply because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings, and 81% stated that face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships.

Most people will say the reason they registered for a particular conference is to continue their education and to maintain their certification. They rush from session to session, and they disappear at the end of the day. If you’re already at the conference, take the time to engage and observe – ask a question to the speaker, find out more about an organization, or stop by an exhibitor booth.

Conference learning includes personal development, career development, networking, and broadening horizons. You’re surrounded by opportunities to grow. You enable yourself to become an expert.

When you attend any conference, take full advantage of your investment in your most valuable asset: yourself.

Written by Tina Gaerlan, CMP

6 thoughts on “What’s Old Is New Again: The Value of In-Person Networking

  1. Hi Tina,

    Love this post. I think technology in many sense has created a wall between what it means to be an effective communicator. We’ve sacrificed the vulnerability of in person conversations for digital ones – just for the sake of convenience and efficiency.

    Thanks for the post!


  2. The intangibles in learning new concepts or nuances on existing bodies of knowledge are enhanced by absorbing some of the passion for the subject, which may be best communicated in a live setting. That which we know well and care about the most is what comes through in the subtle (but clearest) unspoken cues from body language, and the dynamics of our voices as we articulate the words and phrases around the nuggets of information. We don’t get that powerful semantic boost online (with the possible exception of video, to a degree).

    I can say some of my most effective uptake of professional education has come from the IMA’s annual conference. I still remember points I garnered from sessions with Mr. Excel (Bill Jelen), and Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, in the areas of Excel techniques and new technology, while I learned a valuable lesson about planning ahead from finding out that I had been confirmed as a moderator for Toni Spina’s State & Local Tax session when I arrived at the conference when she happened to mention at the board meeting when introducing me to a new board member that I was going to introduce her in return at her session in a couple days! (Oops!). That’s part of the fun of conferences – volunteering, seeking out new relationships and connections, putting new friends and old ones together for the benefit of all. My kind of fun! Thanks for reminding us, Tina!

  3. I think about my job responsibilities and how the conference can best serve them. I already know that I’m going to get CPE credits for attending a conference, so instead I look closely at the program to see what sessions pique my interest (lately I’ve been researching hybrid events). In those sessions, I know I’ll meet fellow event managers who face the same challenges I do, and I’ll network with them. I also look at who is exhibiting and compare them to my current initiatives. I’ll meet with hotels or convention and visitors bureaus that are on my radar, three or four years down the line, and start talking to them now.

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