I run a wide variety of websites ranging from product reviews to video game forums, but one commonality spreads across everything that I do – when dealing with people over email there is always a feeling of disconnect. With all the advances in technology it’s become increasingly easier to communicate online and there is almost no real reason to meet up with people in person. These days I experience this feeling of isolation even more now that my morning commute is 20 steps away from my bedroom and the only people I talk with are online or over the phone. My desire to connect with people in person has been strong enough recently that I decided to go to Las Vegas for CES early this month. During my time I learned 5 advantages of in person networking as compared to doing it online or over the phone:

1. Legitimacy:

If you go to a conference to cover it on a blog or website you run it adds legitimacy to your blog. When I paid $6,494.03 to go to Elite Retreat I knew that it would help lend credibility to what I write about on this blog. After all, why would I spend over $6k to go to a conference if I wasn’t making enough money to cover the expense? Likewise, I went to CES so that I could report live from the event and show the readers my operation is more legitimate than they may have thought before.

2. Strengthen Old Relationships:

Going into CES there were about twenty marketing reps that I knew I wanted to meet face to face. These are the people I had been communicating with over email for 6+ months (or more) and I knew that it would improve my relationship with them by meeting with them in person. This also builds on my previous statements of adding legitimacy. They may have had questions about the fact that I was a solo blogger in the past, but knowing that I spent about $1,000 to come down and see CES first hand should make them take me more serious for future requests (i.e. direct ad buys).

3. No Gatekeepers:

When you first call a company asking for demo equipment to review (or even worse – the person in charge of buying online advertising space) it’s very tough to get to the right person in charge. The administrative assistants are trained to not pass through calls to many individuals unless they are given a compelling reason. But when you are at an event like CES you are speaking directly with the PR agents and marketing managers in charge of promoting their products, so it’s in their best interests to listen to what I have to say and take my call in the future.

4. Forge new relationships:

Even though I have had the opportunity to work with many companies, I still haven’t worked with everyone. By going to CES I was able to surpass many of the roadblocks that stood in my way as a solo operation and start to build relationships with new companies that I can turn to at a later date for clarification on a product they’re releasing or for demo equipment. I knew going into the event there were about 10 primary companies I wanted to speak with and I not only spoke with them, I’ve already begun dialog about potentially doing direct ad buys (more on that in the future).

5. True relationships pay dividends:

Am I advocating that you try to be friends with people just because of what they can do for you in a business sense? No of course not. But if you look back at the past advantages I’ve listed off there are now over a hundred people that I can go to and ask questions that I would have felt uncomfortable asking in the past such as: “I know we’ve worked in the past before, but I was wondering if you could provide me some contact info for the person in charge of media buying” or “Hey, I had an idea for a joint promotion where (insert company name) could give me a few units of product to give away on my website” etc. These are the types of tough questions that it’s very difficult for the person on the other end to say yes to if the only contact you’ve had in the past is over email and a couple phone calls.

Wrap up:

If you have an opportunity to go to a conference highly related to the websites you run I suggest you take it. As long as you know it may take some time for your initial investment to pay off you’ll be more than happy you did it. In fact, I already have a lead on a company that may be willing to pay my way to the next CES and they’re asking for very little in return.

What do you think? What have your experiences been like with conferences?