Networking is important, there’s no new news there. And these days, when it’s a total breeze to shoot off an email or DM over Instagram, networking feels easier than ever. But are these online exchanges actually effective in cultivating a network that truly supports your ambition? According to Lisa Smith, founder of The PR Net, a group which brings which brings together marketers, communicators and creative entrepreneurs, the answer is: Not necessarily. In fact, Smith feels now more than ever it’s important to spend time getting out there and networking IRL. Read on as Smith explains why.
1. Digital Fatigue
Between all the emails and the fact that almost everything is done via an app – dating, weather checks, banking, you name it – people are digitally tapped out. We have maxed out ingesting all our info via a screen, so getting out IRL is a welcome break.
2. The Changing Nature of Work
I’m sure a lot of this applies cross-industry, but there have been some big changes within the marketing, communications and media industries that lend themselves to IRL networking. Freelancing and consulting are increasingly more common, so the need to belong to a wider professional community to connect and learn from our peers, will strengthen even further. The nature of brand marketing and communications has moved away from traditional media relations and now encompasses partnerships and collaborations more than ever. Networking can deliver these kinds of opportunities and also keep your industry and cultural intel on point.
3. Time Efficiency
Who hasn’t felt that they could achieve in a 5-minute conversation what hasn’t been achieved in 50 back and forth emails? In-person interaction delivers in a way that can’t be replicated through digital comms. For example, at the right networking event (i.e. where you’re matched with likeminded people from the same professional eco-system), you can make 5 great connections in an hour, which is infinitely more fruitful than sitting behind your desk.
4.Build Stronger Connections
Connections made IRL are stronger than those forged only through email or social media. Making an in-person connection will reap all kinds of benefits down the track — from my experience, someone who’s met you will be much more likely to reply to your email, help you with a request, take your meeting and so on.
Networking is an exercise that requires practice. You have to keep your interpersonal skills up and staying on a screen all the time will be to their detriment. I personally think it’s really depressing if we lose the ability and occasion to connect without a screen in front of us.
There are numerous negative health effects (both physical and mental) from staring into a screen all your waking hours. Mixing it up by stepping away from the computer or phone isn’t just refreshing, it’s important for your health.
I feel so inspired after our PR Net networking events. In a short space of time, I’ve chatted with lots of smart and interesting people, come away with lots of new work ideas and experienced it all in an amazing setting. We host at newly opened hotels, members clubs, restaurants, cultural events and other beautiful event spaces, so it’s a really enjoyable context to connect in!
New Zealand native Lisa Smith has a unique work history, blending entrepreneurship in communications and marketing, publishing, online retail and networking. Her PR and Marketing experience includes working with brands such as Opening Ceremony, Van Cleef & Arpels, J.Crew, Peroni, Belvedere, Nike, Converse, Monique Pean, Yigal Azrouel, Byredo, Champagne (region of), and others. Most recently, Smith built The PR Net: a network of marketers, communicators, creative entrepreneurs and media drawn from the leading brands and agencies in the US.