Business professionals who master LinkedIn can significantly increase the success of their face-to-face networking efforts.

Some people have misunderstood LinkedIn, by thinking it is a ‘magic bullet’ that will completely solve all of your business development woes. In our experience, successful users understand that LinkedIn is a ‘must have’ toolbox which can play a vital role in your business development but it is not the ‘be all and end all’ of business development.

Face-to-face networking and ‘pressing the flesh’ are still a vital component of building powerful professional networks but LinkedIn can play a key role in helping to improve your chances of success. If you take the time to master LinkedIn, you will find that it pays dividends with your traditional offline networking activities by helping you to find suitable events and by providing powerful tools to help you maximise your success.

How to use LinkedIn to optimise your face-to-face networking

LinkedIn can be used to boost the chances of you making and building valuable network connections. In the first instance LinkedIn Groups are great for finding out about real-life networking events and opportunities in your sector or geographical area. Remember, you can join up to 50 groups and you should try to join groups where your target audience are residing.

Your timeline may also be a source of intel about events, seminars, and networking opportunities…so boost your chances by ensuring that you follow companies, such as those in the professional services, that are known for hosting suitable events for your sector and target audience.

If you are hosting an event then you MUST use LinkedIn to promote it. Get your people to share the information about the event to their timelines and groups. You can really boost the chances of success if you take the time to send a direct invite to those target individuals/companies in your network.

OK, so you have used LinkedIn to help you identify networking opportunities….how do we use the platform to really boost your chances of success?

At LinkedIn Success Blueprint we have found that you need to have a change of mindset if you really want to make the most of face-to-face networking opportunities.

Consider these two approaches….

Approach 1: 

You are going to attend a seminar next week…you’ve booked your place….you relax and attend the event…perhaps make some small talk during the coffee breaks with whoever you happen to be near to…swap some business cards…perhaps connect on LinkedIn after the event….perhaps you get lucky and you get talking to a ‘good lead’.

Lets compare this with Approach 2:

You are going to attend a seminar next week…you’ve booked your place… this is an event you have really selected because of the quality of those who will be attending….you may have asked the event organisers if they have a list of those who will be coming or you have found this out by using LinkedIn….you have then looked up and made a list of ‘targets’ – those that you must meet with…LinkedIn will show you what they look like and will also show you any areas of commonality you share with them….you might even have connected with them on LinkedIn in advance and start to ‘warm’ the relationship…perhaps by inviting them to ensure that you say ‘hello’ at the event. You have used LinkedIn to identify the kinds of topics and groups they engage with and will have a great understanding of their business needs before you have even met. At the event you meet every one of your targets…create a solid introduction…invite them to join your network on LinkedIn so that you can take the conversation further….

Approach 1 is unfocussed, haphazard and is clearly not the best way to ensure that success with your face to face networking. Approach 2 is targeted and almost guaranteed to be successful and all it took was a bit more effort!

In the next article in this series on how to use LinkedIn to improve your face-to-face networking, we will look at How to build trust and credibility by using LinkedIn