Sure, it’s easy to connect via Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like in today’s digital age.

But getting out and meeting other professionals face-to-face is still essential in the business world.

While your initial interaction may happen online, taking your relationship to the next level by connecting in person pushes things to another level. Attending luncheons and conferences is a great example, as is serving as a volunteer on a committee for a charitable cause. While the first layer of ice may be broken online, you learn a lot about someone from how he or she carries his or herself during in-person interactions. Think body language, tone of voice.

If you want to work your way up the business and success ladder, you have to be able to make meaningful personal connections. Think interviewing for that promotion or position you’re hoping to land. That can take practice.

Start at the beginning

Networking is an intimidating prospect for some, and can be more so now that we’re able to hide behind our computer screens and on smartphones. If you tend to shy away from in-person meetings, work your way up to being a pro by breaking your face-to-face meeting successes into pieces.

First, work on properly greeting others and introducing yourself. Be sure to make eye contact and to smile.

Next, progress to listening. Make sure that before you start worrying too much about what else you’ll say, that you’re a good listener. It’s most definitely something learned through in-person meetings rather than online. And it’s much easier to put conversations into context when meeting face-to-face. After all, how often has something you’ve texted or emailed been misconstrued? Think about it.

Once you feel secure in your listening skills, connecting conversations with one or more individuals should be a breeze. By listening, you’ll pick up on bits you’ll want to ask questions about and expand upon later. Something far more easily done in person.

People want to meet people

Believe it or not, meeting “in the flesh” is still today’s preferred method of communication. These statistics from Hubspot are quite telling. Consider:

  • 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking.
  • 72 percent of people say their impressions are impacted by how a person appears and his or her handshake.
  • 68 percent of entry-level professionals value face-to-face networking more than doing so online.
  • About 9 in 10 people say small meetings are their favorite way to communicate.
  • Remote meetings generate 10.43 ideas on average, while in-person meetings generate an average of 13.36.
  • Nearly 100 percent of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.

So, get out there and start meeting people!