Networking IRL

Social media networking is all the rage today. Which got me thinking. I should write about what isn’t getting as much play, but is still central to achieving results – whether it be finding a new job or developing new clients. In my experience, the best way to accomplish what you want is networking and meeting IRL – In Real Life.

With today’s online tools, you can find and connect with like-minded people at high speed. Electronic connections seem to advance quickly. The reality is that they can be limiting in forming deeper, trustworthy relationships.

There is no substitute to looking into someone’s eyes, seeing their body language, and feeling the chemistry of a person-to-person meeting.

Call me old-fashioned, but results speak for themselves. When I meet with people, the probabilities to influence outcomes increase significantly. And the same can for you.

The three levels of networking:
Level 1) Virtual information exchange. An email or online link in social media.
Level 2) Voice conversation and/or video. By phone, skype, video posts.
Level 3) In-person meeting. Most powerful relationship builder.

Networking IRL takes an investment of time and commitment. You must be proactive, know yourself and know what you are looking to achieve in a meeting. You must have a social mindset, be engaging and have fun with it.

Critical to networking success is putting yourself in the right places,
at the right times, with the right people.

Networking at an event with a common cause can be a very positive experience. It is about community involvement and connecting for a purpose bigger than yourself.

Great places to network IRL:
- Faith-based groups, volunteer/charity events.
- Social clubs, sports games, political rallies.
- Trade associations and conferences.

Calling all Talent Acquisition, Recruiting and Staffing Professionals!
Please join us. I will be speaking at two (2) recruiting industry events:

September 29-October 2, 2010
National Association of Personnel Services, St. Louis, MO
Buy discounted tickets here: http://bit.lydpifMI

October 7-8, 2010
RecruitFest! Boston, MA
Buy discounted tickets here:


There are many excellent resources – books, articles and blog posts – written on effective networking. Google “How to Work a Room” and you will find many techniques and strategies.

Here are 10 tips for networking IRL:
1. Do pre-event research. Who will be there? Their backgrounds/interests?
2. Dress for the party. If you feel good, you will do good.
3. Go to the drinks and food to meet new people.
4. See someone you know and be introduced to others.
5. Be welcoming. Eye contact, smile, nod as if you’re saying “hi”.
6. Be the conversation starter: Handshake, “Hi, I am… Great event. Have we met? I’m from…” Or, break the ice with a topic in the news.
7. Focus on the other person: “Where are you from? What do you do?”
8. Listen more than you speak. Laugh.
9. Tell a story or anecdote about yourself. Be memorable.
10. Exchange cards. If you say that you will follow up, be sure to do it.
Rule of thumb: If your aim is to maximize IRL contacts, spend no more than 10-15 minutes with each person/small group .

When you are enjoying yourself, you are more relaxed, you are more confident and you are more engaging. You will naturally open up about who you are and what you do. You will attract people. (Keep in mind to weave into the conversations, subtly toward the end, what you are seeking – whether it be a job or new business.)

This is a recent article in Forbes on “How to Work a Room”

Like online, networking IRL is an acquired skill. The more you do, the better you will get. Remember that people want to work with others who are upbeat and have a “can-do” personality. You can show them that in your networking.

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23 Responses to “Networking IRL”

  1. Mike,
    Another excellent post replete with action-oriented methods to implement what you suggest!

    I love social networking – it’s a ‘fit’ for my personality, as I often prefer the non-intrusive and synergistic interaction, particularly with Twitter. That said, I agree that ‘electronic connections seem to advance quickly … and can be limiting in forming deeper, trustworthy relationships.’

    Earlier this year, at a careers conference, I had the opportunity to cultivate the eye-to-eye, chemistry-enriching relationships with several career colleagues with whom my initial relationships started on Twitter. I must say, I was NOT disappointed; in fact, the chemistry I had discussing career strategies and business challenges via social media and telephone translated seamlessly in real life. With a couple of those peers, we now communicate DAILY, often by phone, always by email/social media.

    I also appreciate your 10 tips for networking IRL; specifically, #s 3 and 4 (wouldn’t have thought of ‘go to the drinks and food’ to meet new people, but you are right! People are ‘captive’ as they select their tasty delights, and often, amiable and easily interactive. I also like the ’see someone you know and be introduced to others.’ This works! The ‘helping gene’ that most of us possess spurs our friends/colleagues to make gentle introductions. What better way!?

    Networking need NOT be painful; in fact, SHOULD be a delight! As you say, be confident, engage, laugh!

    Excellent information, as usual!

    PS – WISH I could meet you IRL when you are in St. Louis late September/early October – only 4ish hours from me (I’m in Kansas City!) ; )


  2. Mike Ramer says:

    Hi Jacqui, Thanks very much for your in-depth comment! Very glad you thought this post has “action-oriented methods to implement”. As I’ve written prior, “ideas have value only when action is taken” :)

    Agree with you that social media enables a first connection which warms up meetings (phone and in-person). Terrific that your on-line chemistry translates to meetings IRL. I have found the same. A “style match”.

    I would love to meet you in St. Louis when I speak at the NAPS conference late Sept/early Oct. Only four hours from Kansas City. To think about :)

    Best, Mike

    P.S. Yes, go to the drinks and food to strike up a conversation and network!

  3. Mike,

    This is a wonderfully astute post providing us with a blueprint for networking.

    “There is no substitute to looking into someone’s eyes, seeing their body language, and feeling the chemistry of a person-to-person meeting.” This is becoming a lost art in our business today. The telephone for many Talent Acquisition pros is an alien device.

    Pointing out to us that being comfortable in one’s own skin is a great attribute for networking. People want to meet others that manifest that attribute. it helps them be comfortable with the situation.

  4. Mike Ramer says:

    Hi Dave, Thanks very much for your comment.

    As one search professional to another, that sentence was also my favorite: “There is no substitute to looking into someone’s eyes…” which is why it was highlighted.

    Yes, person-to-person meetings seem to be a “lost art”. Have you read this piece posted on my site in the “Resources” section? “Connecting: The Forgotten Art of Social Interaction”. It’s also enlightening on this subject.

    Certainly, online technology and social networking is changing the “interaction” of business. We will see more video conferencing, because of distances, costs and time. Still, meeting in person will always carry the greatest weight in forming an established relationship, in my view.

    Best, Mike

  5. Hi Mike,

    As always, a very nice article from you. Networking is a process that takes time, persistence, “homework”, preparation and I believe a desire to (IRL) meet and mingle.

    Social networking is great and does help to make a nice entry into developing a rapport with people, but it is not the be-all end-all. I have always found this to be true in my consulting business relationships: first they have to know you; second they have to like you, then; third they will do business with you.

    A few years ago I attended a training session specifically designed to help people better understand how to network IRL. The woman who was conducting the session is a well-known consultant and author on the topic of IRL networking. One “tip” she offered that really resonated with me and still does to this day is that successful networkers understand the give and get rule and actually prepare for it. Simply put, the give and get rule is that great networkers understand that they must first give something of perceived value to another person to then get the same back.

  6. Mike Ramer says:

    Hi Cyndy,

    Thank you for your insightful comment. This is what social networking/web 2.0 is all about. Give and take and learning. What we are doing here.

    I agree that a little “homework” and “preparation” before meeting IRL goes a long way. Then, the people you meet do not feel like strangers. Which, to your point, is a fantastic quality about social media: It enables “warming up” before an IRL meeting. When you and I meet IRL, Cyndy, we won’t be strangers :)

    Thanks for sharing what you learned from the consultant on the topic of networking IRL. The tip that you wrote about is a valuable one: “The give and get rule…” Perhaps, we saw the same person? I remember it as the “Rule of Reciprocity”. Yes, “perceived value” is key.

    Best, Mike

    P.S. The spelling of your first name is lovely. I don’t know any other who spells it like this. But that’s branding – a topic for another day :)

  7. Kristen says:

    Such a good reminder that Social Networking isn’t meant to replace in real life networking and the most valuable connection comes from meeting someone in person.
    It is nice that social networking is out there to give us a foundation to start with though!

  8. Ha-Ha, good point Mike! Yes, you and I will already be “warmed up” before we meet.

    The rule of reciprocity sounds familiar; it may have been that.

    Thank you for the compliment. Can’t wait to see your article on personal branding. I will definitely have a comment or two to share on that topic!

    Take care.

  9. Mike Ramer says:

    Absolutely, Kristen. Social networking doesn’t replace networking IRL. Though, it is a very powerful “conversation starter” and tool – similar in some ways to the phone.

    Here’s why I think social media networking works so well. Many people are shy to approach others they don’t know. Social media enables meeting “at a distance” for a first contact. People can then learn what others do and think before responding.

    Another reason why I think social media is so effective is that people can view what others are doing and talking about. Human curiosity (voyuerism?) Who else is reading this and watching us? :)

    Best, Mike

  10. [...] conversation format. My training style has always been a bit unconventional. People who have met me IRL say, “Mike, you’re way more fun in person than online. Very approachable. High energy. [...]

  11. I’m tuning in. Human curiosity as well as a proclivity to want to hear your valuable thoughts has led me here today. Important insights from your readers.

    Yes. There is still magic in IRL! Important reminder that people hire people and form lasting relationships with people. I’m still a big believer in the idea that social networking is simply another method of connecting and should never be replaced by the face-to-face human element. This is particularly the case in the recruiting industry where meeting in person gives us ample opportunity to learn so much via body language, listening to career stories, and looking deeper at what truly motivates and drives people. This is such a key element and a foundation for true communication. Listening and sharing will always be valuable.

    Your point “People can then learn what others do and think before responding” is very interesting. We have shared several lively phone discussions along these lines. Agree, there is such great value in simply listening. Wise words Mike.

    PS: Speaking of IRL networking with colleagues…See you at RecruitFest next month! :-)

  12. Mike Ramer says:

    Well, Meghan, thanks for “tuning in”, especially with all the terrific content on the web now.

    I agree with you. There’s nothing like “The Real Thing” or as you write the “magic in IRL”. Yes, people tend to form more lasting relationships in person and social networking is a first step to being “introduced” to someone new – what they do, their thinking, their style, their goals.

    I can see why you liked that line “People can learn what others do before responding.” For a strategic, engaging mind like yours, social media is made for you.

    And, yes, I am truly looking foward to meeting you IRL for the 1st time soon – in Boston for RecruitFest. There’s nothing like the first! (:-)

    Best, Mike

  13. HRMargo says:

    This is exactly what I preach to my job seekers in the HireFriday Community. If you aren’t leveraging those relationships you take so much time to build online and move it to IRL, you will most likely miss the opportunity to get hired, land the contract, or even make a real, true friend.

    Great post Mike.

    Animal doesn’t agree with you, but I do, and that’s all that counts hahahahahahaha.

  14. Mike Ramer says:

    Hi Margo, Thanks for stopping by. That’s the 1st photo I remember seeing of you (and also my favorite one of you). Yes, you are doing great work with HireFriday. Kudos to you for launching and keep it going!

    I’m glad you agree with me and not Animal (:-) that the best way to advance online relationships is to meet in person. Since most recruiters don’t do this (Animal?), opportunities are likely to be missed. It makes sense: Meeting new clients and candidates creates stronger “relationship bonds”. When people meet you and like you, the likelihood of them working with you increases.

    Best, Mike

  15. Bill Boorman says:

    I’m going to cut to the chase: It is all just networking. On-line or off-line, it all works the same way. My tagline on this: New Tools/Old Rules.What is important however is that your IRL networking is targeted. Theirs a million people that will meet you at Starbucks for coffee, and the experience can be enjoyable, but it’s far better to dedicate your time to people that can help you achieve your objective, whatever that might be. Forget channels , (and IRL is another channel.), apply the same rules to all networking:

    1: Be Ready
    2: Be Researched
    3: Have a clear objective
    4: Share and help where you can (Give without expectation of gain.)
    5: Remember everyone and connect others
    6: Be Targeted
    7: Always think “What is the next step and how can I get to it?”
    8: Follow Up

    Thats just my thoughts,


  16. I met a lot of the people I know from Twitter at Recruitfest08 and 09. Including Jerry Jerry, Karla Porter, Radical Recruit, Maha Akiki, SGordon70, Kelly_Mitton, Julia Stone, @Havrilla, @RyanLeary, Rayanne, AndyGregoryCGP and others. (@BillBoorman)

    The only contacts that made a diff were the people I hardly even talk to on Social Media and, even then, I don’t know how much difference. For instance, I had a long conversation with Kelly and Julia. I also spoke to @Havrilla and @RyanLeary at length.

    The key there was at length. If you interact with people a lot on SM I think this is probably the same as speaking to them IRL.

    I hardly spoke to Jerry either time I met him but I feel that I know him pretty well because I know him well on social media.

    If Mike would have said extending your SM contacts to the phone changes the level of contact I might have agreed with him.

    However, here’s why I think SM is better than IRL.

    On social media people contribute when they have something to say. You can also ignore them when they are not interesting. IRL you can’t. Trust me, I’m not always that interesting. When I talk to Jerry on the phone, he says, “Gotta go” and hangs up. It’s hard to do that in real life.

    Mike, you’re someone who is different on the phone than on SM so I think that made a difference in how I know you but that’s probably because I didn’t see enough of you on SM. Bill Boorman writes and appears on radio and out the videos. I didn’t exchange more than a few words with Bill when I met him but I wasnt surprised by anything he said or did during his session. I felt that I knew him well. True or not is another story.

  17. I’m assuming we’re talking about recruiting here, aren’t we? I mean – Mike – you’re a recruiter. So your networking is for the purposes of expanding that business, correct?

    I can see no point in networking for any purpose other than increasing your opportunities to do business and generate an income. Networking just to feel like you’ve expanded your network is pointless.

    Are you networking IRL to expand your candidate/client pool? If so – great. If not – then I’ve got to ask what the purpose is. I’ve been to several social networking events and for the most part have met only a handful of people who have contributed to my bottom line. For those relationships I am thankful. Sure – meeting new friends is cool. But I can do that anywhere………

    The more time spent thinking there is some world out here we we need to be known and a “part of the conversation” is more time spent NOT making presentations to your clients and candidates. It’s a pipe dream.

  18. Mike Ramer says:

    Appreciate your comments, Bill. I agree with you. “It is all just networking.”

    We need to have a “clear objective” (strategy), “be targeted” (techniques to execute) and “always be thinking about next steps” (follow up is essential). And, it helps to be ahead of the curve with first-mover advantage.

    What is so revolutionary about social media is that it opens up the world (via a low cost, global channel) to find, connect with and engage like-minded people.

    For those reading who don’t know, you and I met through social media. Two global recruiting trainers who see the future online, globally, full of rich interaction, sharing, collaboration.

    The follow up for us: A beer IRL in a London or American pub. (:-)

    Best, Mike

  19. Here’s a test.
    Above you’ll see Jerry honking out the same old story about SM being a waste of time even though that’s not really what we’re talking about. And you’ll see Mike taking advantage of an opportunity to remind us that he’s a global recruiting trainer. If people did that regularly IRL what would you do? What do you do on SM?
    The distance offered by SM leads, in some ways, to greater intimacy than IRL. Who’s going to tell you the truth if you have to hang around with eachother immediately after? But, here, you know the person has put herself into a debate and that critique is A-OK.
    My last comment made me want to modify something I said before.
    SM does enable an intimacy that is more difficult to achieve IRL but should we be seeking that?

    Jerry says, if you’re here for business, no. Without fully endorsing the manner of his reply, let me say that is a fair answer. I usually divide the Recruitosphere into Storekeepers and Cowboys. Storekeepers are here to impress people. Cowboys are here to argue. But being a cowboy can attract a more attentive audience than those obtained by the Storekeepers.

    Jerry is a cowboy on my show and on Recruitingblogs and he gets lots of fan mail because of it. All he has to do is find a way to put his full contact SM style in front of clients and candidates and he might have them knocking down his door. Jerry claims that this audience is not on SM. That might be true. In fact, I agree with him. And while it is tempting to imagine that someone like him could establish far reaching business-worthy SM clout, it’s probably better to simply be easier to pick up the phone.

  20. Mike Ramer says:

    Thanks for your many comments, Michael, aka Recruiting Animal. You’re taking the opposing view, as usual, which many appreciate. You’re known for stirring the pot, challenging the status quo and making us think. All good things. You are respected for your views, because you’ve been on Social Media and blogging longer than most of us.

    That said, Michael, on your blog talk radio show and here, I find your comments somewhat narrow-minded. Step outside yourself and look at the perspective of why posts are written and where people are coming from. Maybe for a broader audience and a knowledge-sharing theme? It’s not all Animal-centric.

    Yes, this post was for the very active Social Media people, who I look forward to meeting soon at industry events. It was ALSO written for clients and candidates who visit here – with hopes to engage them and bring into the Social Media fold. And, also let them know about my firm’s search services and more about me.

    In my 20 years experience in search and recruiting, I have built stronger relationships by meeting people in-person. Certainly, most in recruiting/staffing/search can develop effective relationships on the phone, as most do. In today’s times, we need to differentiate what we do. One way is to meet people IRL. “Virtual contact” starts the conversation. But alone, it is weak for client development.

    Have you ever placed a candidate without at least talking with them or the client? (I did just once in my 20 years.) Now bring this to a higher level. If you meet a client and candidate, a stronger bond is created because you’ll be able to look them in the eyes and better evaluate their candidacy and trust worthiness.

    When I meet with clients, the probability to do business increases significantly. In fact, I’ll get on a plane and visit a new client if the parameters (exclusivity and quality search) align.

    For business/relationship development today, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest and “virtual” defined as e-mail and/or social media):
    - Virtual alone: 2
    - Phone alone: 5
    - Virtual + phone: 7
    - Phone + IRL: 8
    - Virtual + phone + IRL: 10

    In my opinion and experience.

    Best, Mike

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