How to eliminate the awkwardness of meeting someone offline after connecting online
Originally published in the Monster BeKnown blog here.
Meeting someone in real life (IRL) after you’ve only conversed online — or worse, after only following a person on Twitter — doesn’t have to be as awkward as it sounds. The secret? Focus on the details. Here are the things you must do when introducing yourself to someone you’ve only “met” online:
1. Introduce your online self in person. First and foremost, if you are initiating the contact at an event, you make sure you not only introduce yourself but your online identity. Try something easy and simple like, “I’m Lyssa, or @DailyHap. I run the website DailyHap.com.” It connects the dots between online and IRL. But if a person comes up to YOU and says something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re @DailyHap!” don’t think you’ve shirked your responsibility. It’s as easy as saying, “I am! My real name is Lyssa.” Never fear rejection, most people are out of their element at these events anyway!
2. Introduce how you “know” each other. The next step to alleviating awkwardness is to introduce how you know a person, sneaking in a compliment if you can. If you initiate, after you’ve introduced yourself, try something simple like, “You’re Sarah! We’ve emailed about this event and I really appreciate your tweets!” With a smile and a compliment, you’ll increase the likelihood the person will remember you because they’ll de!nitely remember the compliment! Being excited, warm, and friendly is contagious, and helps alleviate any awkwardness you—or the other person—might feel.
If someone who initiates the contact fails to elaborate on how you know each other, and you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask simple, polite questions: “What’s your twitter handle again? Where do you blog? I’m sorry, I can’t remember where we connected?” These questions steer the person into filling in the details for you. It’s okay to acknowledge the awkwardness of meeting in real life with a joke, something like, “I’d recognize you if you were your Twitter avatar!” which lightens the whole encounter.
3. Bring up a shared connection. If you are approaching a person, make sure you’re ready with an anecdote about something you both have in common: a mutual friend, a Facebook story you both “Liked,” a Twitter conversation you once had, or a blog post they wrote that you enjoyed. Worst case scenario: have an “event line” ready, where you can talk about the event you’re at: “This happy hour is such a great place to meet people interested in dog rescues. Tell me, how did you get interested in this dog rescue organization?” Asking people lots of questions – and caring about their answers – is networking gold; people are drawn to people who are genuinely interested in them.
4. Have an exit strategy. Sometimes, conversation doesn’t flow, and that’s okay. Better to gracefully bow out than to draw out a painful conversation. My favorite trick is to introduce the person to someone else you know, then leave them talking. For a more direct exit, simply reiterate what a pleasure it was to meet them. Share a firm handshake and the conversation is clearly over.
5. Follow up afterwards. Make sure you do follow up online. You can take notes about a person on their business card or in your phone’s notes section. As our lives increasingly blur between online and real life, it’s important to keep current in both areas. A simple, “Great to meet you!” tweet, Facebook post, email or comment will ensure that your next meeting in real life is less awkward. You can even immediately send them an invite to join you on BeKnown right from your smartphone.
Don’t let the ease and convenience of networking online keep you from making important IRL interpersonal connections. Starting a profession networking relationship online is totally natural; the trick is knowing how to bring the conversation offline and seamlessly transition into an IRL connection. Remembering, sharing details from your online connection is the key. It’s all in the details.