These days, it’s pretty easy to conduct business, personal and professional, without ever having human contact. A laptop and Internet connection opens you up to the world, and anything from shopping for groceries to negotiating contracts can be done online. New vendors, products and services you didn’t have access to 10 years ago are now available with a few clicks of the mouse.
With the world at our fingertips, why bother with face-to-face meetings, right? Trade shows, open houses, networking events – they’re all a waste of time anymore. That is a dangerous mentality. It’s more important than ever to be ready, willing and available to meet in person.
In June, I attended a graduate open house at Oakland University. I have been considering getting a master’s degree for some time now and researched different schools and programs in the area. Online research, though, only gave me so much information, so I went to the open house. Not only was I able to meet with the head of the Department of Communication and Journalism to discuss their Communication program, but I also gained valuable information that can never be conveyed through a website. As I parked my car and walked to the Oakland Center, I appreciated how beautiful the campus was. As I visited different program booths, I learned how open and friendly the faculty was. As I roamed the halls (ok, maybe I got a little lost), I saw banners promoting all the different student associations (Quidditch, anyone?).
On the ride home, I realized that in the 30 minutes I spent at the open house, I gained more insight and knowledge than I ever could from a website. “Maybe there is some value to this face-to-face stuff after all,” I thought to myself. Maybe it’s time to go back to basics.
If you’re looking for a new job, new client or new opportunity, having basic interpersonal skills may be what sets you apart. Be willing to attend events and actively seek out information. Be confident in your abilities, in your product, in your industry. If there is an industry trade show and the cost and audience is right, buy a booth and give potential customers the chance to experience your product in person. Or better yet, host your own event. (Oftentimes, this is cheaper and more direct.)
Most importantly, never underestimate the value of a firm handshake and eye contact.
*Article originally ran on Notes by Nadia.
Nadia Zerka is a client relations manager at Imagine Communications.
Email Nadia at firstname.lastname@example.org.