When networking, it’s easy to focus on the event itself and forget that one of the most important parts of the process is the follow-up. Networking, and relationship building, aren’t a one and done – they’re a process. And that process takes careful tending.
But the good news is that with a few simple steps, you can make that follow-up part of your post-event routine so that following up becomes as natural as brushing your teeth…well, almost.
- Connect on LinkedIn: Get out the attendee list that you got at the event or that stack of business cards you’re taking home, and send an invite to connect on LinkedIn. Personalize the invitation with something you learned during your conversations, which will both remind your new connection about who you are and will offer an excuse to continue chatting.You may think that adding them into your email database is just as good, but LinkedIn will not only offer you easy access to information on their areas of specialty, but it will provide them with the same for you, which will help with future referrals.
- Send some photos: These days, most of us are snapping photos with our phones at events. Did you get a nice shot with someone or of someone? Send an email with a nice note or bonus points for printing it out and sending it snail mail. It will make them smile as they remember a fun memory of you and it gives them a visual reminder of your new or continuing relationship.From experience, I can tell you that I know exactly who has remembered to send me their photos after a conference – I can still remember them years after an event. So it’s definitely a memorable thing to do.
- Follow up: Is there something you discussed while at the event that you could follow up on? Perhaps there was a possible referral that you wanted to discuss in more detail or an article you read that you’d like to share. It may be something more personal – one of the wines at dinner invited some more discussion with another attendee, so you send him a bottle of your favorite wine. Maybe you talked about a favorite dish, which your new friend is dying to try, so you send her your family recipe. We make so many connections during an event that it can be easy to forget what we said we’d follow up on when we return home – make some notes right away and schedule that follow-up, so you can keep those conversations and connections going.
- Thank your host: In some cases, the conference or event is hosted by someone – an organization, a firm, an individual, etc. When that happens, nothing is nicer than sending a personalized thank you note – especially if it’s handwritten. Take a few moments to pen some words of thanks to your host, noting what you enjoyed the most about the conference, party, meal, conversation, etc., and send it out within the first week. It will help you stand out to your host, plus, it’s a nice thing to do.
- Take out your calendar: Look through your calendar for the next six months. Do you have any business travel coming up that will bring you to the city of one of your new friends? If so, give yourself a calendar reminder for a few weeks beforehand to reach out to that person about getting together. Business trips are hectic, and it can be difficult to make time for extra networking, but it’s well worth it to add to the efforts you made during the event by seeing them again one-on-one when you’re traveling at another time during the year.As you’re looking through your calendar, also make note of when the next event is for the organization. They may have already released dates for the next event, and you’ll want to make sure you keep those dates free so that you can attend. Consider blocking off the day before as well, and reaching out to some of your new connections to see if they’d also consider arriving early and getting together. Some of the best networking happens in smaller groups outside of the official conference activities.
- Remind yourself to connect: As we’ve already discussed, we all get so busy when we’re in the office that it can be difficult to continue the momentum of an event. So while you’re still thinking about your new relationships, make some reminders for yourself. If you’re not traveling to a city where one of your new connections lives, give yourself another excuse to contact them in a few weeks’ time. Set up a calendar reminder to reach out and see how they’re doing, either with a phone call or an email. Ask whether they’ll be at the next event, or if they may be traveling to your city at some point. Send them an article that reminded you of them recently, or something funny that you saw online that you know fits with their humor.
While in an ideal world, we would all just remember to reach out and nurture our relationships, it can sometimes take these calendar reminders to get us to do it. Don’t assume that you’re just going to remember – you may, but we’re all extremely busy people these days and there’s no reason not to use the built-in assistance that technology offers us. Reminders will take the burden of remembering right off your shoulders.
So as you return to the office from an event, excited to implement new ideas and missing your new friends, do some follow-up to ensure that you keep those relationships active and engaged in between face-to-face visits!