Follow up after a networking event or conference seems easy, until you actually go to do it. Just like most things in our careers, a single line item like “follow up” isn’t just a one shot deal. Effective follow up actually consists of several intentional steps and a little organization. If your follow up strategy seems to fall by the wayside, it could be that you don’t have a simple and organized process. Start by implementing something very simple the next time you collect business cards or contact information at a business event.
Naturally, you can follow up with more but get selective about who you’d like to continue the conversation with. Connecting with potential collaborators and referral partners is a great place to start. Of course, you can follow up with any and all attendees but be sure to do it thoughtfully and with purpose.
During the event, take notes on what people share during the meeting or side conversations. These can include details such as their profession, their company or offers, their personal life (such as where they are from), and interesting topics of conversation.
Find a filing system that works for you – perhaps your CRM or even a simple spreadsheet. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it does need to be easy for you to use (otherwise you may abandon it). Simply write down the details and when (and how you plan to follow up with them). Don’t worry about getting every last detail – better to get the basics down in writing if you are pressed for time.
Most people can sniff out a pushy sales call a mile away, and often shy away from networking because they are relentlessly approached by networkers looking to directly sell to them.
Networking is about building relationships first. The sales may come after that, in many shapes or forms. Sales can come directly from people that you meet or by being referred by people that you meet, but that will all happen naturally if you build a good and mutually beneficial relationship.
Remember that at a networking event, conference, or expo that everyone there is meeting multiple people at the same time. While we would love to be memorable, the truth is that other people aren’t going to remember every last detail about it, no matter how amazing our introduction was.
When connecting after a networking event or conference, remind them who you are and how you met. Refresh their memory with a quick sentence of what you do, and add in any details of your conversations to add context. Trust me, you are doing them a favor because nobody wants to feel embarrassed about forgetting names or conversations.
Pay attention to how they like to communicate. If they hand you a business card, you can even ask them “what’s the best way to get in touch with you? How do you prefer to connect?”
You’ll be surprised at the answers. Some people prefer email, others would rather get in touch on platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram.
While you might prefer one mode of communication, the truth is that you’ll get better results if you use their preferred mode of communication. Anytime you are building a relationship, reducing friction always leads to smoother sailing.
Oftentimes, we will receive a follow up from a new connection that goes nowhere. “We met at XYZ event and I’d love to connect” is fine, but it would be even better if you could suggest the next step. For example, “We met at XYZ event and talked about the changes in our industry. I’d love to schedule a virtual connection if you have time.” This gives a natural way to keep the conversation going if you can.
By now, everyone is used to being sold to, so they may be bracing themselves for a sales pitch. If you’ve got something to offer them or invite them to (no strings attached), then do so.
For example, can you invite them to another networking event? Can you offer to introduce them to someone else in the industry? This may not always be possible but by sharing and inviting, you are beginning the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship.
After you’ve connected with them, make a note in your system to follow up with them in the future. Choose whatever interval feels good for you and makes sense for the business relationship.
One of the most powerful “free gifts” you can give someone is an introduction to someone else (a potential power partner or collaborator). By expanding your network, you can become an excellent connector for other people, and they’ll look forward to your follow ups.
Even if you have the most amazing network already, mixing in new events is a great way to discover new people and add new follow ups to your mix. If you are looking for a new group to make new connections, do some basic searches in your area or online. Massachusetts Business Network is a great resource, and you can even check out the Busy People Network and visit one of our virtual networking meetings.
Even if you don’t have a ton of time for networking, you can still make the most of your time by carving out a few minutes for thoughtful and meaningful networking follow ups. Block off 30-minutes immediately after the event to write short notes while the conversations are fresh in your mind – and theirs! Your connection efforts will no doubt pay off down the road.
This is a contributed piece by Christine McShane, a content strategist and copywriter and owner of Christine McShane Creative, which helps your prospects become best friends with your brand. Her community Busy People Networking combines networking and content marketing to help small businesses make and cultivate great connections. You can connect with Christine at [email protected].
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