It’s no secret that attending an industry event can lead to business opportunities. When you choose the right one, the networking alone provides the return on your investment.
But we’re often so eager for the actual attendance to equal business that we forget that as with any business development opportunity, it’s not one-and-done. In the dating game, while it might be possible for you to meet someone and marry them the same night, and find lasting happiness, it’s much more likely that you spend time getting to know each other before making a commitment. Your business relationships are much the same.
How can you translate those conference attendances into business opportunities? There are as many articles and blog posts on this as there are ways to do it, but today, I’m offering up three tips to use after your next event to move the needle.
- Follow up: Either use the attendee list you received, or the stack of business cards you collected, and commit to following up with three people that you connected with at the event. It can be something as simple as sending them an article, or arranging a phone call, or introducing them to someone in your network that they might find valuable to know. Extra points if you know that you’re going to be visiting their city over the next few months and you arrange to get together for a meal or coffee. Even more extra points if you do the following: after a recent conference, someone who had attended the same conference that I had, but HADN’T connected with me at the event reached out through LinkedIn to set up a call. It turns out there are some mutually beneficial opportunities there that we’re working to explore. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but as long as you believe there is truly mutual interest, reach out to someone that you may have missed at the event and see if you can engage afterwards via the phone or in person.
- Share with your colleagues: This can be a challenging one, I know, because it often feels like you’re giving away free value. But hear me out. When you get back from an event, depending on what it is, talk to your colleagues about the conference – if you have a practice group or partners meeting, share some information about what you learned, why it was valuable, and whether some of them may benefit from attending the following year. Invite key colleagues to join you in some of your in-person follow up if possible, and take advantage of opportunities to introduce them to some of the connections that you’ve met. Not only are you strengthening the relationships that you’ve just created with more members of your firm and showcasing the breadth and depth of expertise that you offer, but you’re also proving yourself to be a valuable team member for your colleagues in a way that they’ll be encouraged to reciprocate. Extra points if you engage your marketing professionals early on and often so that they can help you to identify who might be beneficial to include, and how they can support you through the process.
- Review your LinkedIn list: This takes a little bit more work, but it’s worth it. Your new connections may be spread out all over the place, and you can use LinkedIn to identify other connections that share the same city as they do. Why does that matter? It may be valuable to introduce them to people in their own city who share an interest with them professionally. It helps you to extend the relationship, and you’re already adding value because you’re providing them with a business connection early on. Once you’ve gotten to cultivate your relationships a bit better, and you’re comfortable with them, you can also extend this to your client list and make introductions with your clients who may need assistance in other jurisdictions where you’re not represented, but you have connections. It makes you look proactive, and adds incredible value to those relationships. Again, it’s also encouraging those connections to do the same for you.
When you return from your next conference, don’t just dive back into the tons of emails waiting for you (though I know how tempting that is). Get some follow up and communication in the pipeline so that you can start to translate your attendance into real business opportunities.