I previously wrote about the importance of maintaining your professional network. Today we’re going to talk about the same thing, except in the real world.

I’m not one for attending mass networking events. These events are good if you want to find new contacts or be introduced to someone for the first time, but for existing contacts I prefer a more focused meeting. One to one networking if you like.Let me tell you about my mate John.

We worked together about ten years ago for a software vendor specialising in risk management software for health organisations. I loved the job and I loved working with John. He frequently used mind mapping to discuss problems in our software and always provided a great service to our customers. When we were all made redundant, me and John decided to stay in touch.

Over the last decade, I’ve met up with John about every four months. When each of us are armed with a coffee and a cake, the conversations goes from family life to careers and technology. We talk about ideas for software products, interesting applications, risk management, decision tools and more. The majority of the conversations always falls back to ideas for risk management and decision tools for the web.

It’s a great chance to catch up with a good friend, but it also gives me the chance to find out what’s happening in his career, his contacts and whether they are any opportunities for career moves. It’s times like this that I appreciate the one to one nature of conversation. The conversation is fast, detailed and always leads to an idea or two. No email, no messaging, no smoke signals. You can’t file this meeting away for later like you would an email or message, and then forget about it. While networking through the digital world is necessary, so is meetings like this. Whether it’s frequent or not, the chance to find out what’s happening, discuss ideas and ventures can always lead to an opportunity to further your career or skills.

The next time you find someone on LinkedIn that you want to connect with, remember the people you currently have in your network. When was the last time you had a one to one meeting with someone who influences you?