You’ve built your LinkedIn profile, started using some of its advanced features to beef up your profile, and added the connections you knew – and maybe some connections they know. You’ve got a few recommendations, and you’re participating in groups. Now, how can you start leveraging the professional networking site to go beyond the Web and start meeting prospects, clients, and peers in person?

Seek out others at events

One of the best ways to do this is by checking out LinkedIn events to see if your connections are showing up in the RSVP – you can do this by logging in, and on the LinkedIn home page, hovering over the “More” menu in the top toolbar and selecting “Events.” Here, you can browse any events that your connections organizing, view the most popular events in your industry, find an event based on keyword or location, and add your own events. To see if your connections are planning to attend the same event as you, or attending an event in your area, click on the name of the event and select the “RSVPs” tab at the top of the event page, under the event name. Your connections will be the ones with a blue “1st” indicator next to their name, meaning they’re a first-degree connection.

If you have a mutual connection with somebody you’d like to meet, you can similarly see if they’re attending by looking for the blue “2nd” indicator next to their name. Want to get introduced? Ask your mutual connection if they can provide an introduction before the event, or if they’re going.

Multitask on business trips

Another great way to meet up with your connections: Before traveling, make a list of your connections in the area where you’ll be. Hover over the “Contacts” menu on the top toolbar and select “My Connections.”

To find the locations that make up your connection list, select “locations” on the lefthand side to drop down a list. If your list displays 19 connections in the greater New York City area and you know you’ll be there for a business trip, for example, you can click on “Greater New York City Area” and see a list of your contacts there. Send a message to one or several by ticking the boxes next to their names, or send a message to all the contacts in that area. This works best if you already have an established business relationship with those you’re messaging, but even if you don’t, you can still reach out to gauge their interest in meeting face to face. You can meet with them one-on-one, or organize a small group to meet for a brunch-time networking event, for example.

Just remember, the rules of networking apply here – don’t reach out just to promote or sell yourself. Make it about them, and what they need.

Use your groups

Often, members will post information on events or get-togethers on group pages, but not create an actual event. Join groups, and participate in them. Visit the pages often, and make sure you’re an active member. That way, when a group member with similar interests posts information on an event, you can reach out to them and say you’re interested – and perhaps you two could meet up while there.

Tips from other members

What else works? Check out these responses to a recent LinkedIn question on meeting face-to-face: “Have you ever met a LinkedIn connection face-to-face? If so, did your meeting ‘differ’ from the ones you have with a ‘traditional’ contact?”

  • “When I got going on LinkedIn earlier in the year, I decided to make it more than a ‘yellow pages’ so set up with LinkedIn members and some existing clients and friends a networking breakfast. First breakfast 11, 2nd 45, and 10th (tomorrow), 73! Over 300 people have joined the group ‘Breakfast Networking – Perth’ and other groups have now been established hosting similar events. I now meet more LinkedIn folks at this function every month than I could shake a stick at. All are excellent folks who are networking for the greater good and not just to sell to their next prospect.”
  • “We had a little LinkedIn Kansas City meeting several months ago. I think it went great. There was about 15 or so individuals that came to the meeting. We talked about the ins and outs of LinkedIn and how to use it to your advantage. I took a lot from it.”
  • “Our neighborhood has a LinkedIn group and about 20 of us met recently. I met with another yesterday and it was interesting to already know some background and go from there. On interviews, for engaged companies, I try to know as many as possible and some ‘who knows who’ research. … There are three folks in the group who put the meeting together tied to a local career center move to its new location, so this kicked off as a job club format.”
  • “RI is a small state; I see clients and LinkedIn connections I have worked with at the gym, church, the grocery store and even at the local parks. I have met several in Newport RI; Tampa, Florida on vacation and even the airport as well. I must say that having a photo is absolutely vital here on LinkedIn. Another near place to meet LinkedIn connections for me was Yankee Stadium; we knew each other from the Yankee Fan Groups here. Of course we immediately have so much in common…”
  • “I recently found myself in Atlanta with a totally unexpected afternoon and next morning free (i.e., wasted unless otherwise utilized!). I downloaded my connections in Atlanta and focused on those (had to look at addresses) in the Buckhead area. I made calls on seven connections close to my hotel and scheduled appointments with six of them in this short period. Future opportunities will arise from that meeting. Bottom line is that absent LinkedIn, my 700 other “connections” on mailing lists in Atlanta would not have resulted in meetings. How do you call 700 people? And what direct connection do you have?”

Have you met LinkedIn connections or prospective connections face-to-face? And if so, how did it work out for you?

Christina Pellett is the editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at ASJeditor@AgentMedia.com or 800-933-9449 ext. 226.