Why Face-to-face Still Trumps All Communication

Flickr photo by Dave Cynkin

It’s easy for us freelancers to just hole up in our home offices or in a corner of a coffee shop, feeling like we’re still connected and productive because we’ve got tabs open with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Prismatic, FourSquare, or whatever communication flavors of the month are hot. “Look at me, I’m networking my ass off!”

Mostly though, that’s all just noise. Sure, 15 minutes a day of that may accomplish something, but the rest of the time it’s just keeping you from doing work that will actually make you money. The hard stuff. The meaningful stuff. The work that will still be read a year or two from now.

What is really useful networking though?

Spending real money and time going to the right conferences.

There you’ll meet actual humans face to face. You’ll accomplish more in a couple days sometimes than you did in months of virtual water cooler chatter. The more I do that, it seems, the more my business grows.

Here’s what happened when I went to Colorado for TBEX this past June—and why I’m already registered forĀ the Toronto one too.

  • I met an editor and pitched an article on the spot that I’d had kicking around in my head. He ended up buying it. I got paid and it’s a good article too I must say.
  • Meetings with PR people have already led to a press trip and a couple hosted hotel stays.
  • Meetings with marketing people have led to one huge ad buy for Perceptive Travel and another one is in negotiations for early next year.
  • I got on the radar of organizations and destinations that haven’t worked with me before, but probably will now if I make a request.
  • I met a few writers who already work for me, some that will, and some that I can connect with for interviews on this travel writing blog, for example.

That’s all in addition to what I actually learned in the seminars, things I can apply to my business and career. How long would it have taken to accomplish all that by phone and e-mail? A month? Two months? Infinity?

A week and a half ago I went to TravelMart Latin America as a reporter, covering it for the Luxury Latin America travel site. Besides learning what was new and interesting so I could share that with readers, here’s what’s come out of it already:

  • Three press trip invites.
  • Three ad inquiries to pass on to the ad director.
  • Connections with tourism officials I’ve had trouble reaching.
  • Correct contact names for companies that would make good ad/promotion partners.
  • A jump in traffic and new newsletter subscribers from the industry.

Your mileage may vary of course, but I’ve had outcomes like this from all kinds of acronym-laden conferences I’ve been to. Some have been better than others, but none has been a complete waste, even when I’ve had to pony up airfare and hotel expenses.

Get out there and mingle with warm bodies. You’ll be surprised how much you can get accomplished, even if you don’t log onto social media once for days on end.

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