Is it better to network in person or online?

by Black Hat Middle East and Africa
Is it better to network in person or online?

Welcome to the new 115 cyber warriors who joined us last week. 🥳 Each week, we'll be sharing insights from the Black Hat MEA community. Read exclusive interviews with industry experts and key findings from the #BHMEA23 keynote stage.

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This week we’re focused on…📢

Why taking your virtual network offline and into real life can be so powerful. 


Because we interviewed Rana Khalil (Application Security Team Lead at C3SA), and she said:

“Living in Canada, it's not easy to meet and engage with the folks I've been following from the Middle East. Black Hat MEA provided me that chance to build real, in-person connections with people I've known virtually for years.”

It got us thinking…💭

Are in-person professional relationships better than online ones? 

Because let’s be honest: we’re part of the global cybersecurity community, and a lot of the interactions between that community happen online. It makes sense; we work with tech, we understand tech, and interacting online is second nature to us. 

So we don’t want to underestimate the value of online networks. We know that the people you connect with on the internet can have a huge impact on your work and career. 

But are there benefits to meeting face-to-face

Probably, yes

One study by Forbes asked respondents about the pros of face-to-face networking compared to online networking. It found that: 

  • 85% of people felt that in-person networking allowed them to build stronger, more meaningful relationships
  • 77% said that in-person networking increases your ability to ‘read’ another person through body language and facial expressions, contributing to better professional relationships
  • Downtime at in-person conferences helps to establish and strengthen bonds – you get to have social experiences together instead of only talking about work, and that builds better bonds
  • Networking in-person can allow for more complex strategic thinking and better quality decision-making

And for many professionals, these benefits outweigh the pros of online networking events – benefits which are primarily rooted in convenience, lower costs, and flexibility. 

A mix of online and in-person is important 📱

We’ll say it again: we don’t want to undervalue the importance of online networking. And if you can’t get to in-person events, then online is a very strong second best – you can still build relationships slowly over time, and connect with new research, projects, and even mentors or investors. 

But a mix of online networking and going to IRL events is ideal. You get the best of both worlds: the convenience, affordability, and instant accessibility of online relationships; and the deeper, more complex, and potentially more transformative power of in-person ones. 

If you had to choose – do you prefer online or in-person networking? 

1. Online vote

2. In-person vote

3. Can’t choose – I appreciate both in different ways vote

There’s more to a meeting than closing a deal

Here’s the thing: meeting other professionals in your field isn’t just about business. The benefits of building relationships extend far beyond the projects you’re working on right now, the investments you’re trying to raise, or the deals you’re trying to close. 

A strong and active professional network, rich in meaningful relationships, can shape your career trajectory – or be the difference between your business achieving its goals or not. 

There are many subtle social processes that happen when you’re in a room with other people working in your field. Cybersecurity people need to get together to really understand each other and develop the capacity for collective goals, meaningful collaboration, and shared security standards. 

And a lot of it comes down to trust

“Participating in events like Black Hat MEA is incredibly valuable to me because they offer a unique opportunity to connect with professionals from all over the world,” Khalil said. 

You’re more likely to share knowledge with people you trust to use that knowledge well. 

You’re more likely to share ideas with people you trust to respect (and credit) your talent. 

You’re more likely to disclose the details of a breach with people you know won’t use those details against you. 

You’re more likely to invest in a startup when you’ve connected with its founder on a personal level. 

You’re more likely to believe the value of a product in a marketing email if you’ve met its designers. 

You get what we’re saying: 

Meeting in person creates the conditions for trust. And trust makes the cybersecurity sector go around. 

Do you have an idea for a topic you'd like us to cover? We're eager to hear it! Drop us a message and share your thoughts. Our next newsletter is scheduled for 14 February 2024.

Catch you next week,
Steve Durning
Exhibition Director

Join us at Black Hat MEA 2024 to grow your network, expand your knowledge, and build your business.

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