Take Your Online Network to the Next Level: Offline
Online networking is an important part of your career, but you can only take your connection to professionals on the Web so far. When you’ve started a relationship with a fellow professional on the Internet, the next step is taking the connection to the next level and scheduling an offline meeting.
An offline meeting can be as simple as setting up a phone call or as complicated as tracking down a connection at a networking event. Here are a few steps to taking your online network offline.
Let your connection know you’re interested in finally meeting in person. This can be in an email if you’ve exchanged contacts or via a message on a social network. Don’t be afraid to send a DM on Twitter or a message on Facebook. The worst that can happen is they say no or don’t respond.
Find a place that works for both of you or if you’re not in the same city set up a phone call, the next best thing to meeting in person. Let them know you won’t take up too much of their time and be flexible with their schedule.
Meet Casually as Professionals
You don’t have to meet at an office for a professional get together. If you’ve already set up a relationship with the person online, then meet somewhere casual and keep the tone professional. Dress nicely and suggest meeting for coffee at a local café or getting lunch together one afternoon. Try to keep your meeting between 20 minutes and a half hour, only letting it run longer if they admit that they have time to spare.
If you’ve been following and chatting with them for a while online you probably know personal as well as professional information about them. Try not to immediately mention something personal that takes them off guard or force casualness onto the meeting. Start off with a shared industry interest or connection and see where the conversation goes from there naturally.
Connect at a Professional Meet-up
If they mention a networking event online that you also plan to attend, let them know you’ll be there and try to connect at the meeting. There are many conferences, meet-ups, and other industry events where you can most likely meet your online connections.
Combining your connections to have online and offline elements will strengthen the connection even more and make your contact a more valuable member of your network. You can continue to tweet with them or share their updates while knowing if you have a professional question you can now reach out to them via phone or set up a meeting and be able to comfortably chat about your career face to face.