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Why Are IRL Networking Events Becoming More Popular?

Hello and welcome back. I’m Ruthie, the host of The Defiant Business Podcast, and we’re just barreling ahead with our episodes about The Future of Marketing. Today we’re going to talk about why networking events are becoming more popular. We’re also seeing more online conferences and things like that, but why are our networking events becoming more popular?


A Resurgence in the Popularity of Networking Events

I’ve got some professional friends who noted that networking events were not that popular in the late 90s or early 2000s. They were popular before that, but they’re making a resurgence. So the question is why

Networking Is About Building Relationships

I want you to consider what networking is about. Is it about going and collecting those business cards? Is it about leaving with a pocket full of clients? What is it? 

Well, it’s about none of those things. You won’t leave with a pocket full of clients, unless you’re a fantastic speaker or something. You may leave with a ton of business cards, but they’re probably not going to do much for you. 

Proper, valuable networking is about building relationships. People are lonelier than ever, and we all crave social connection. 

Easier to Build Relationships In-Person Than Online

A strong business is built on your relationships, and it’s easier to build strong relationships in-person than online. So this is one of the reasons we will still go, the time it takes to nurture and build online relationships. 

People Pay More Attention to You In-Person

Networking in-person also has the advantage of people paying more attention to you. People are super distracted online, and you never know when they’re ignoring you. In networking events, you can provide real-time feedback and adjust how you’re speaking with someone. 

For example, if I was giving this talk in person, I would have the opportunity to take questions. I’m observing the crowd, and I’ve got backup anecdotes or examples in my mind if I feel like I’m losing their attention. However, I do not have that opportunity because podcasting is an online one-way activity. 

I want you to think about messaging your best friend. My best friend Linda and I message a lot, but it’s kind of sporadic. If I messaged her and I’m like, “Hey, so XYZ happened.” It may take her a while to answer me, and this doesn’t bother me because we both have kids. She could be busy! It could be that she’s sleeping, because she’s got a new baby. I just wait. 

But if you have a prospect that you’re talking to, you may not know all that information about their life. So are they distracted but they’re going to get back to you, or are they distracted and you’ve lost them forever? That is the disadvantage with trying to network online. 

Online Networking Also Has its Value

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all over LinkedIn and I’ve built some great relationships there. It’s not that I’m saying you can’t succeed, but the impact of real-life networking can compliment your online networking efforts. 

Business Value and Why It’s Important 

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 52% of respondents said that event marketing drove more business value than other marketing channels. 

What we mean by business value is not necessarily that the company made a ton of money from the event, but by bringing people together. In my case, they’re bringing together professionals who have things in common. They’re bringing in speakers that I would be interested in hearing from to help my professional development. Maybe I hadn’t heard of this company before or I had no other connection to them, but the event popped up in my Facebook feed, or someone invited me. 

This is the advantage; it pulls in an audience and helps build loyalty. Now that I’ve gone to this company’s event, I’m more likely to open their emails, comment on their posts on social media, and actually engage with them. 

So as long as the event is good, you can turn people who’ve never interacted with your company before into fans. That is the business value. Because if their product/service applies to me, I’m feeling more loyal to them than their competitors and I’m more likely to buy. 

The Astonishing Results of In-Person Networking Events

It takes longer to nurture online relationships, so building relationships in-person and staying connected online is a strategy that I favor whenever possible. I read another HBR survey about the results of building connections at events. This one targeted women specifically, and the numbers were really interesting. 

So they did a survey of women before and after a particular conference, and they noted that 18% received a promotion during the time period, but it was before they actually attended the conference. So they had signed up but they hadn’t attended. But after attending, 42% of the women who attended the conference actually got a promotion.

So within that year, after the event, their likelihood of receiving a promotion actually doubled. That’s crazy to think about! 

Another thing that they noted is that, after attending the event, attendees had tripled the likelihood of a 10% or more pay increase. 

So through building those relationships, people probably got some great mentors/competitive peers, which urged them along to seek out pay increases and other benefits. I’m willing to bet that anybody who is looking for a new position was able to use those connections that they’ve made to leverage that. 

Four Essential Event Characteristics for a Great Conference 

HBR noted that there were 4 specific event characteristics that led to a great conference. 

  1. A Sense of Social Connection

The first thing is a sense of social connection felt by the attendees. I think that can be fostered through social media, email, and things like that prior to the event, but your event marketing’s going to be really key here. If they don’t super feel it beforehand, you definitely want them to feel it after. 

2. Engaging Sessions

You should have very engaging sessions. This means having great speakers, making sure that you don’t just have just the speaker talking at everyone, and making sure there’s opportunity for questions. The Q&A panels are always really popular, especially for people like me who like to come up with questions ahead of time. 

3. Exemplary Leaders

You want to make sure that you’ve got leaders who exemplify the qualities of the conference. This applies particularly to your speakers, because you want to make sure they embody the message and the spirit of your conference. 

4. Memorability

And then you want to make sure that it’s memorable. This doesn’t mean a whole bunch of flash bang, but put some thought into your planning. It leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth if something goes wrong with food, there’s not enough seats, there’s not enough of the swag bags that you promised to hand out, etc.  So you want to make sure that it’s memorable for all of the right reasons. 

The Value of Networking in the Digital Era

I think that we spend so much time looking at screens that when you go to an event and you have the opportunity to really look someone in the face, it just gives you so much more information about that person. It allows you to go with your instincts when you’re deciding the relationships that you should build.

So let me know when the last time that you attended an actual in-person networking event was, and if you felt like you got anything from it! I’m also going to link to the types of people at networking events post that we made last year just to give everybody a refresher on the types of people you may or may not meet at your next event.

All right, this has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, and I look forward to your comments. Thanks for joining me!