For today’s Two for Tuesdays, I want to look at two tips for following up after a networking event. Finding the right event, with the right audience, and then meeting the right people are all essential parts to successful networking. But it doesn’t matter if you meet a handful of great people at an event if you never speak to them again – the key is in the follow up.
Tip One: Ask a Question
This tip comes from a great post on Life Hacker that suggests just that – follow up meeting a new person by asking them a question (which you’ve jotted down on their business card). The reason is two-fold:
- First, it shows that you were really concentrating on what they were saying – as long as the question is relevant to them. It sets you apart as a good listener, and shows that you value building the relationship, and not just the number of contacts you have. It’s important to make sure that the question is a genuine one, and not just an excuse to keep talking, or it will likely have the opposite impact on your new relationship.
- Secondly, it keeps the conversation going. Even when you send up a follow up email, unless there is a reason for the person to respond, they probably won’t. But if you ask a thoughtful question, there’s a reason for them to keep speaking with you, and the conversation can go from there. It may even become substantial enough to warrant a follow up meeting.
Dave Greenbaum suggests in his Life Hacker piece that
When you get a business card, think of the question you’d like to ask the other person and write it on the back of the card so you don’t forget. If you’re using a digital contact manager, put it in the notes field. That way, you actually establish a bit of a relationship instead of being just another business card in the box."
And since building relationships is what it’s all about, this is an excellent tip in my book!
Tip Two: Make it Easy to Engage
I’m all about making things as simple as possible so that networking, follow up, business development, etc. is all a part of my daily schedule, and not something I have to remind myself to do – if I have to remind myself to do it, I’ll push it to the back burner every time.
So why not make it easy to engage with someone after you’ve met them, and use LinkedIn to connect? It’s another point of contact, it gives both of you access to each other’s profiles to see where else you may have overlap, and if you engage with LinkedIn regularly, it can also help keep you updated on the various activities in each other’s professional lives.
Some things to remember:
- When sending a connection request on LinkedIn, never use the standard request. Make it specific, by referencing something in the conversation you had, or even just the location where you met. For example, you could say "Bob, it was great to meet you last night at the Chamber of Commerce Summer Soiree. I’d love to continue our conversation about the succession challenges you mentioned for your business. Perhaps we can connect first here on LinkedIn."
- Set up your browser to automatically open LinkedIn – we’ve talked about this before, and setting up your browser so that you automatically visit LinkedIn daily or even just weekly is a valuable tool – you’re more likely to engage with it if your browser does the work for you.
- Along those lines, you MUST engage with LinkedIn. Take a look at those articles that they recommend for you at the top – you may find them of interest, enough to share them with your own network. That reminds your new connection Bob of who you are. When you’re reading other articles outside of LinkedIn, share those with your LinkedIn network – they all have buttons that make it incredibly simple these days. You can either just share the title, or put a few quick notes with it, and it takes almost no time at all. Go through your newsfeed and comment on or "like" the updates of your connections that matter – just remember that your connections are notified of comments by email, but they’re only notified of likes within LinkedIn.
- Focus on what might be of importance to your new contacts. If you see an article that Bob would find relevant to something you discussed, you can tag him in your comments on LinkedIn so that it alerts him.
The idea here is to make yourself visible to your new contacts, so that it’s easy for them to see who you are as a professional – your profile is great, but no one checks that out on a regular basis without a good reason. So sharing articles, comments, questions, etc. will not only remind people that you’re out there, it will flesh out the professional details you have in your profile so that they get to know you better.
Additionally, sharing on LinkedIn also makes it easier for them to engage – it’s only a few clicks to "like" something you’ve shared or comment on it, and that will tell you whether what you’re sharing is of interest to your new connections, or not.
While you’re using these tips though, don’t forget the most important one of all – follow up in person as well. Events where you are networking are almost never one-on-one opportunities. Once you’ve gotten to email back and forth with someone a bit, and connect with them more on LinkedIn, don’t forget to invite them for lunch or coffee so that you can really focus on building your relationships!
As always, we only have room for two tips on Tuesdays, so add your tips for networking follow up in the comments!