THE TRADITIONAL “MEETING”
People, who have been networking traditionally – trade association meetings and face-to-face networking, completely trash the online networking syndrome. When one can meet service providers and buyers and exchange business cards with them in the first meeting, why does one need to invest time writing e-mails? I have received some invitations and have even attended some of these offline or traditional networking events.
I was quite taken aback when I was told to carry a minimum of 50 business cards for the “meeting”. I would be meeting people for the “first” time! Was I going to just hard sell myself? Wasn’t I going to build any relationships? I was told that there would be no time for that! Since I would have to exchange business cards with all the “influential” people, I wouldn’t have time to actually “talk” to anyone. Relationship building could wait.
Just to satisfy my curiosity, I went ahead and did as told – it was a fish market – everyone trying to suck up to the most influential person (whatever that means!). I easily amassed about 50 other business cards (which I have never used till date) and I kept most of my business cards because I was having such a good time observing everyone else that I had no time to shove my cards into someone else’s hand. The “meeting” lasted about half an hour and all I got out of my mouth were a dozen greetings of “Good Morning!”
I still do not understand why a face-to-face meeting is “essential“, when we have tools and technology available today that make it redundant – we can have a videoconference if we really “need” to “meet” someone. Tools like Skype already allow us to speak to anyone on the planet for free! Of course when we have to hire someone to work as an employee, then we will have to eventually meet the person before actually hiring him or her. But for people who are not recruiters, meeting someone is not a “need”, it is a “want” in order to satisfy our uncertain minds.
The only one factor that makes people uncomfortable about online business networking is the “uncertainty” aspect. How can I be sure that the person I am talking to is who he/she says he/she is? How do I know he/she will deliver the goods the way they promise? How can I be sure that I am not being cheated here? We assume that meeting a person face-to-face will eliminate these uncertainties. Fact of the matter is that you will not be any better off by meeting someone – what makes you so sure that if the person’s face “looks” innocent (we have our biases), he/she is actually not going to cheat you?
The networking forums we use today use various forms of security checks to weed out people who are there only to hard sell and SPAM us. In fact an online cheat would be caught faster then a “face-to-face” cheat. If someone SPAMs us, we can report the same to the Forum Abuse Group, if someone hounds us, we can block them or deny contact with them, if someone uses our service and does not pay us, we can put that up on the web too for others to know. Information travels vary fast on the web.
THE GLOBAL VILLAGE ARGUMENT
When I have all the talent available to me locally, why should I bother with someone from halfway across the planet?
Since we live in a global village now, why do we want to stick our heads in our “local” sands? What stops us from doing business with someone sitting halfway across the globe? Certainly, nothing stops me. Not only have I had meaningful exchanges with people from almost everywhere on the planet, I have also done a good amount of business, made money and even helped other people on my network. And I have never met any one of those people! Before getting into any business commitment, I always tell my clients that only “trust” and “communication” will make a working relationship successful and all my clients understand that. Today I can say that not once have I not received payment for my services.
I agree that we have a lot of local talent available. But then what is outsourcing all about? Online Business Networking can be used by Small and Medium Businesses for their outsourcing needs – they do not need to and cannot afford to invest in infrastructure to hire someone – all they need is to be on an online networking portal and know how to use the Search Tool well!
UPDATE: Eric A. Sohn posted his views on on this blog post over on his life (over IP) blog. Find my comments at the end of that post too! This is interesting!