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Face-to-face Networking

Face-to-faceNetworking

Abstract

Thepurpose of this study was to address the importance, skills, anddifficulties of face-to-face networking. The main reasons that havemaintained the significance of face-to-face networking amidst thedigital-based types of networking include its capacity to bring thesenses of the networking parties closer and the high speed at whichresponses are received. The media richness theory shows thatface-to-face networking is the most effective channel of establishinga network because it allows the exchange of equivocal messages. Someof the skills needed for the establishment of effective face-to-facenetworks include active listening, accurate and assertive expressionof ideas, effective use of the body language, and persistence. Someof the importance of face-to-face networking includes theestablishment of valuable personal connection, opportunities foradditional networks, long-term network, and acquisition of tangibleand instant responses. Effective networking is achieved by overcomingthe key difficulties such as reinforcement of communication withvisual aids, making promises to the audience, and enhancinginformation retention among the audience.

Keywords: Face-to-face networking, effective networking, networkingskills, real life networking, and in-person networking.

Face-to-faceNetworking

Thehigh rate of technological advancement has affected many ways if notall means of human to human interaction. This is because technologyhas opened new avenues for people to meet and talk withoutnecessarily having to meet face-to-face with one another. The socialnetworking sites (such as Twitter and Facebook) are some of thetechnologies that have drained people from physical to virtual world.Research shows that more than 39 % of the people of the United Statesspend much of their time socializing with other online, compared toamount of time they spend socializing in person, while 20 % of theprefer communicating with other via mobile phone text messages,email, or internet communication instead of communicatingface-to-face (Schawbel, 2012). In addition, the rapid increases ofthe number of people joining social network site is an indicationthat face-to-face networking will continually lose value as peopleforget the fact that there is no other means of networking that cansubstitute face-to-face networking. The present study will addressthe issue of face-to-face networking with a focus on skills requiredfor effective networking, importance of face-to-face networking,difficulties that people face when networking face-to-face, and adescription of experiential exercise that can be used when presentingin class.

Background

Face-to-facenetworking is one of the oldest types of networking because it isestimated to be of the same age as human beings. Initially, therewere many predictions that face-to-face networking would extinct atone time, especially with the introduction of digital methods ofnetworking, but it is now clear that none of the modern approaches ofnetworking can replace face-to-face. According to Winger (2005)face-to-face type of networking has remained relevant in spite of theemergence of digitized methods of networking because of itsproductivity, which arises from two major factors. First, thecloseness between the parties in the face-to-face networking bringstheir senses (including sound, smell, and touch) together. Inaddition, messages can be exchanged vocally under the face-to-facetype of networking and this act as an outcome of a given rationalthought. This allows the networking parties to express their feelingsabout what they say and how they say it. Moreover, the opportunityprovided by face-to-face networking to the networking individuals tosee one another enhances the effectiveness of face-to-facenetworking. This is because the sense of sight allows the use ofnon-verbal cues.

Secondly,the speed at which face-to-face networking is achieved makes itsuperior over other types of networking. This is because theinformation that is passed through face-to-face communication isoften received instantly and the response given immediately (Winger,2005). This is most important for situations that required instantresolutions. The two factors enhance the significance of in personnetworking and has retained its relevance in spite of the largenumber of people going for social media network (such as 900 millionpeople on Facebook and several billions on Twitter per week)(Schawbel, 2012). Although technology is advancing at a high rate,there are still many places and events (such as sporting events,rideshares, waiting rooms, grocery stores, outdoor cafes, andclassroom presentation) that facilitate face-to-face networking.

Statementof the problem

Face-to-facenetworking brings individuals together in a situation that offers astimulating environment for the creation of innovation anddissemination of outcome. Prior to the current rate of technologicaladvancement, organizations and individuals appreciated thesignificance of face-to-face networking, which was achieved throughconventions, conferences, exhibitions, and meetings. However,research shows that there has been a decline in the use offace-to-face networking where 85 % of companies have reduced theirtravel expenses following the tough period of financial restraintsand availability of cheaper and convenient alternatives fornetworking (Jago &amp Deery, 2011). Although modern means ofnetworking are cost effective, the level of trust and transparencythat achieved in the in person networking cannot be attained intechnology based networking. The reduction in the utilization offace-to-face networking has resulted mainly from the limited studiesaddressing its significance. The present study will fill this gap byidentifying the skills needed, importance, and the difficulties offace-to-face networking.

Theoreticalconcepts

Themedia richness theory focuses on information processing as well aseffectiveness of communication. According to Wright, Schwager &ampDonthu (2008) the media richness theory is one the most importantcontemporary theories that are used to examine the relationshipsexisting between different performance variables (including decisiontime and decision quality) and communication media. The theoryassumes that the decision to use a given channel of communication isdetermined by two major factors, including the purpose and theproperty of a given channel of communication. The purpose of themessage as well as the property of a given channel of communicationhelps in reducing ambiguity, which achieved through a consciousselection of the media (Arndt, 2011). This helps in ensuring that theattention of the communicating parties is directed towards thedecrease of uncertainty and an increase in information. Theface-to-face channel of communication is often used in tasks with ahigh level of uncertainty because it is a rich channel (Arndt, 2011).Tasks with a low level of uncertainty, on the other hand, require theuse of lean channels (such as written communication). This means thata suitable balance between the level of equivocality and the mediacan help in reducing uncertainty and enhancing effectivecommunication within a given network. Therefore, face-to-facenetworking is more appropriate and effective compared to other formsof networking given the fact that it involves equivocal messages.

Thestructure of this paper consists of five parts. The first partaddresses the skills needed for the establishment of an effectiveface-to-face network, which include the listening skills, expressionof ideas, body language, and persistence.

Thesecond part focuses on the importance of face-to-face networkingskills. Some of the importance addressed includes the personalconnection, additional networks realized following the face-to-facenetwork, acquaintance and follow up, and tangible rewards.

Thethird section addresses some of the difficulties faced by peopletrying to network face-to-face. The difficulties considered I thissection include the identification and the use of the language of theaudience, reinforcement of face-to-face communication with visualaid, making promises to the audience, and giving the audience theinformation that it can take away.

Thefourth section describes the experiential exercise that isappropriate for a class presentation. The three steps of experientialexercise considered in the section include helping the students graspthe key concepts, preparation of students for successful experience,and enhancing the authenticity of the exercise.

Lastly,the paper concludes that face-to-face networking is still relevant inspite of the emergence of digital-based types of networking.

Skillsrequired for effective face-to-face networking

Theface-to-face communication skills, especially among the young peopleare deteriorating at a high rate following the increase inover-reliance on alternative means of networking. There are fourbasic skills that can be used to ensure that face-to-face networkingis effective. First, being an active listener helps the networkingparties to process the message content in a more focused manner andrespond to each other in ways that foster further networking (Bowles,2014). In addition, active listening allows the recipient of theinformation being passed in the process of networking to remainengaged, indicate clarity, and understanding of the information. Theaspect of active listening is expressed in the form of othernetworking skills, including the use of open body language, eyecontact and reframing the verbal message to confirm understanding.

Secondly,accurate and assertive expression of ideas is an effective skill forface-to-face networking. Assertive communication skills allow thenetworking parties to stand for themselves and use non-aggressiveapproach when addressing each other (Gench, 2014). More importantly,assertive people tend to make suggestions and present ideas ratherthan giving advice. Moreover, assertive communicators are able todifferentiate between fiction and facts, which enhances their abilityto give and be ready to receive feedback from their parties. Inaddition, assertiveness in face-to-face networking calls for the useof body language (such as leaning forward and conversationalgestures) that indicates that someone is alert and interested incommunication. Assertive communicators are able to air their ideasand suggestions more objectively, thus enhancing the effectiveness offace-to-face networking.

Effectivebody language is an influential element in face-to-face networkingbecause it determines how the recipient of a given message interpretsit. For example, a face-to-face communication with an even tonefriendly facial expression, and direct eye contact can be receive atpositively or at least neutral (Bowles, 2014). The study shows thatthere are three body languages that enhance the effectiveness offace-to-face networking. First, a steady eye contact with otherpersons becomes the mirror of one’s meaning (Gench, 2014).Secondly, being natural helps the communicator to create and conveyan effective message because they are able to act like themselves andnot like robots. Third, communicating parties should ensure that thebody language they use is in sync with the message they intend toconvey. An effective match between the body language and the messageleads to the establishment of an effective face-to-face networking.Moreover, effective body language indicates whether the communicatingparties are interested in a given conversation, which in turndetermines the progress of face-to-face networking.

Persistenceis vital for successful face-to-face networking. Persistentcommunication in face-to-face networking reduces the probability forthe occurrence of redundancy in setting up a given message each timethere is a need to send it. In addition, persistence helps thenetworking parties to know and maintain more people and grow therelationship among themselves (Lesonsky, 2012). This leads toexponential expansion of the social network and enhances theeffectiveness of face-to-face networking. This is because thepersistence eliminates overhead communication between networkadapters and parallel tasks. There are two strategies that enhancethe effectiveness of persistence in a face-to-face network. First,the ability of networking parties to develop relationships with otherpeople over time gives them an opportunity to earn their trust andfor other people to understand them (Freifeld, 2013). This means thatpersistence coupled with patience are some of the key determinants ofan effective and successful face-to-face networking. Secondly, asystematically planned and persistent network leads to meaningfulconnection between networking parties. This is because, properlyplanned activities and persistent evaluation of experience enhancesthe connection between individuals.

Importanceof face-to-face networking skills

Despitethe fact that technological advancement has created more rapid waysof networking and communicating, face-to-face networking skillsremain relevant and important for application in the modern world.This implies that the high-speed connections, relaying of informationin terabytes, and capacity to connect people from all over the worldare not sufficient grounds to ignore the importance real lifenetworking. Although technology-based and face-to-face are twocompeting forms of social networking, trends indicate thatover-reliance on technology is continually reducing the use of reallife networking. This is common among the business people whoperceive that technology is the most appropriate alternative to cutthe cost of doing business because it reduces the cost of travelling(Jago &amp Deery, 2011). Although this perception may be correct,there are four benefits of face-to-face networking that cannot befound in other forms of networking.

Establishmentof valuable personal connection

Althoughsocial networks (including the social media, email, and mobilephones) that are facilitated by digital technology provides aconvenient way of communicating and sharing information within agiven network, they cannot offer a personal connected that isequivalent of face-to-face conversation. This is because in-personconversation provides an opportunity for the networking parties toexpress themselves in a more personal way, show their interest, andwillingness to spend their time in engaging the other party (InternetBrand Incorporation, 2014). In addition, the in person networking ismore convenient and freer than technology-based networking. This isbased on the notion that human beings remain social beings in spiteof the presence of technology-based means of networking. This meansthat a network that allows individuals to share ideas in physical andreal presence is more preferable. Individuals networking in real lifeare able to assess the key elements of human relationships (such ascompetency and integrity), which are difficult to evaluate usingelectronic mediums of networking. This allows people to establisheffective social relationships as well as social identity. Inessence, face-to-face networking allows the networking individuals toestablish an interpersonal relationship, which cannot be achievedwith other forms of networking.

Provisionof an opportunity for additional networks

Thein-person networking is exceptional to other types of networking inthat it offers an opportunity for individuals to expand theirnetworks. This is because most of the in person networking events(such as conferences and organizational social events) brings manypeople who were strangers prior to the gathering together (InternetBrand Incorporation, 2014). Individuals attending such gatherings areable to meet and share with many professionals within a short periodof time, which may not be achieved via online networking. Inaddition, real life networking provides an opportunity for thenetworking parties to exchange contact for future networking. Thismeans that it is possible to establish long-term networks in areal-life meeting than online conversations. According to Miranda(2014) the use of in person networking in business acts as a lead tothe discovery of potential supporters, clients, and partners who maynot be located in one’s online circle. Moreover, the aspect ofmaking a genuine interest in the affairs of others positions anindividual as a valuable resource and they may also develop aninterest in networking in future. Additionally, face-to-facenetworking in business provides an opportunity for individuals tomake deals, exchange knowledge, and identify new frontiers. Accordingto Jago &amp Deery (2011) in-person networking provides a high (79%)opportunity for meeting new clients compared to other methods.

Acquaintanceand follow-up

Meetingimportant people in one’s area of profession or business in persongoes beyond simple phone calls or exchange of information through thesocial media networks. This is because face-to-face networking allowsindividuals to develop trust and establish a productive and apositive rapport in the future (Miranda, 2014). In addition, reallife networking provides an opportunity to meet other people who mayhave similar interest, and this may be difficult to achieve viaonline networks. This provides a platform for future follow-up, whichcan now be done online since acquaintance has already beenestablished. According to Internet Brand Incorporation (2014) manypeople prefer communicating with people they have met in person.During the face-to-face conversation, people are able to exchangecontact (such as email address, phone numbers, and social mediahandles), which provides an easy way to follow up and build a lastingnetwork on the basis of initial in real life network. Research showsthat face-to-face networking leads to 95 % of the long-termrelationship in comparison with other means of networking (Jago &ampDeery, 2011). This means that face-to-face network leaves a biggerimpression that allows people to continue communicating with eachother in future.

Instantand tangible rewards

Face-to-facenetworking provides the networking persons to exchange tangible items(such as business cards), which leaves a lasting impression. Althougha given physical networking event (such as a conference) may havebeen prepared for certain goals, attendees are able to acquire alasting impression of each other, which cannot be accomplished whennetworking online (Internet Brand Incorporation, 2014). In addition,a real life conversation provides an inspiration that is achievedwhen networking persons spark new perspectives and ideas that opennew opportunities, including the investment opportunities. Moreover,face-to-face networking facilitates unearthing of backgroundinformation, which is important in making smart decisions (such asways of understanding one’s competitors and whom to work with inthe future). Additionally, real life networking provides anopportunity for individuals to acquire important information (such asinformation pertaining to market trends, upcoming events, and newprojects), which is difficult to access in other types of networking.

Difficultiesfaced by people trying to network face-to-face

Usingthe language of the audience

Althoughface-to-face networking provides an interpersonal and qualityassociation that cannot be achieved with other types of networking,individuals trying to use this type of networking face fourdifficulties. First, using the language of the audience is one of thechallenges that may reduce the capacity of the networking persons toestablish an effective network. For example, using nonstandardEnglish to address the audience who uses Standard English leads tomisunderstanding among the networking persons and communicationfailure (Lundgren and McMakin, 2013). Such a scenario may occur whenaddressing a group of engineers or students where the speaker talksof many feet instead of mentioning the mentioning the exactmeasurement. This shows that selecting phrases and words that will beunderstood by the audience is a challenge the networking personsshould overcome in order to facilitate an effective network.

Reinforcingthe communication with visual aids

Theinclusion of visual aids, which are important components of real lifeinteraction in face-to-face network, is a major challenge that canaffect the quality of a given network. Visual aids used in aneffective face-to-face networking should be readable in both groupsetting and in the intimate settings. According to Lundgren andMcMakin (2013) the significance of the speaker’s expertise indelivering the message may be reduced by lack of readable visualaids, which include the use relevant colors and body movements thatis consistent with the wording. In addition, many people find itdifficult to use short phrases and words that are enhanced withvisual aids to emphasize the key points and illustrate to theaudience how different ideas fit together. The difficulty ofintegrating visual aids in speech often results from poorcommunication skills.

Makingpromises to the audience

Inmost cases, face-to-face networking requires instant responses toquestions raised by other parties. This subjects the networkparticipants to the risk of making promises that they may not be ableto deliver. For example, giving unrealistic answers to the audienceis a common occurrence because people fear saying “I do not know”(Lundgren and McMakin, 2013). Unrealistic responses given during theface-to-face networking reduces the possibility of establishinglong-term relationships and a lasting network, especially when theaudience realizes that the conversation had some untrue contents.This means that unrealistic responses and promises make the audiencelose trust, thus reduces the effectiveness of a given real lifenetwork.

Givingthe audience the information that they can take away

Inmost cases, a face-to-face networking lacks some back-up informationthat the audience can refer to in future. According to Patil (2013)face-to-face networking has a low reference value due to lack ofwritten records that can be quoted after the conversation or apresentation. Although this challenge can be reduced by requestingthe audience to take notes, the speaker faces additional difficultywhen the audience is poor at taking notes. Despite the fact that somepart of the audience may have the capacity to learn by listening,many people need visual reinforcement, which calls for the issue ofhandouts and emphasis on the main points (Lundgren and McMakin,2013). This implies that it is difficult to help the networkingparties understand and retain information when networking isfacilitated by face-to-face communication.

Experientialexercise for a class presentation

Experientialexercise is one of the most significant methods that enhance theeffectiveness of face-to-face networking. Experiential exerciserefers to an approach that seeks to bring key concepts to life inorder to ensure that students or the audience experience thememotionally and physically (Mollaei &amp Rahnama, 2012). Theexperiential exercise used in the class presentation would followthree steps. The first step would focus on helping the students graspthe key concepts of the topic of presentation. This means that theexercise should capture a feeling or a moment that is perceived to becentral to the students’ appreciation. In addition, the exerciseshould involve intrapersonal intelligence and body kinesthetic thatare important in evoking emotional responses to concepts that thestudent might otherwise perceive to be unimportant.

Thesecond step should involve the preparation of students for successfuland a safe experience. This includes a series of activities, whichinclude the appropriate arrangement of class, provision of cleardirections to students, setting up of clear learning as well asbehavioral expectations, addressing the safety issues before theactual exercise, and anticipating the students’ reaction.

Thethird step is making the exercise as authentic as possible. This canbe achieved by keeping the face a straight face whenever appropriate,including sound as well as music effects, using simple costumes andprops being quite dramatic in order to heighten the interest ofstudents, and reinforcing the exercise with visual aids asappropriate.

Conclusion

Face-to-faceis among the oldest types of networking that have remained relevanteven after the emergence of digital-based types of networking.Face-to-face networking enhances the interpersonal relationship thatcannot be achieved in any other form of networking. Unlike othertypes of networking, face-to-face networking brings the senses ofnetworking parties together and response is often made instantly.Based on the media richness theory, face-to-face communication is themost appropriate channels of establishing networks given the factthat it facilitates the exchange of equivocal messages andfacilitates the growth of trusts among the networking parties.However, an effective face-to-face networking can only be achieved ifthe networking individuals have the necessary skills. Some of thebasic skills required for the establishment of an effectiveface-to-face network include being an active listener, ability toexpress one’s ideas accurately and in an assertive way,persistence, and effective use of the body language. The possessionof these skills allows the networking individuals to establisheffective social relationships, increase the possibility of newnetworks, establishment of lasting networks, and acquisition ofinstant feedback that improves the quality of decisions made duringthe face-to-face networking. In addition, an effective in personnetworking can be achieved if the networking parties are able toovercome the key difficulties of this type of networking. Some of themain difficulties that should be addressed include the challenge ofusing a language that can be understood by the target audience,integrating visual aids into face-to-face communication, givinginstant responses that are credible, and enhancing the capacity ofthe audience to retain the information given in face-to-facecommunication.

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