We’ve written before on what to do before and during a conference to meet people and expand your network. But what do you do after a conference to keep the conversation going? Today, we share a few tips on how to take those initial meetings and greetings to the next level.
This time of year is always a whirlwind of conferences, panels, plenary sessions and meetings. As you’ve dashed from event to event, surely you have met new people, made conversations, pitched your ideas, and collected business cards. So what’s next? How do you make the most of these new connections after you’ve taken the time to get out there to meet, greet, and connect?
Below are four steps to follow up with people you have met so that you can continue and deepen the initial connection you have made and turn conference connections into successful network building.
Step 1: Organize your contacts
It’s important to remember where you met someone and what you spoke about. If you’re like me, after a busy conference you are left with a stack of business cards and an inability to connect names to faces. After you meet someone, take a moment to write down on their card where you met them and a few notes to remind yourself what you talked about.
For example, after I went to South by South West last year I simply wrote, “SxSW” on all the cards I collected. I also noted the panel, meet and greet, or concert where I had met them and wrote down and if I had promised to follow up on a conversation item with them.
Step 2: Establish an initial connection
To ensure the cards you have received don’t collect dust after the event, use social media to connect with the people you have met. Add them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Include a personal note such as, “Nice to meet you at the conference, I look forward to staying in touch,” when sending a follow request.
I tend to reserve Facebook for my personal family and friend contacts, but if you feel it’s appropriate, you may also reach out to them on that platform and be sure to “Like” their organization or project’s page. If they have a blog add it to your reader and comment on an entry or two you find compelling.
If you talked with someone about an article or resource that you promised to share, be sure to send it to them!
Step 3: Move the conversation offline
If you made a strong connection with someone and you want to learn more about what they do, invite them for coffee or lunch to continue your conversation.
Before sending an invitation, decide on your purpose for connecting with this person. Are you looking to get insight into how to advance in your current field? Do you want to learn about a new career path? Are you looking for someone to collaborate with who has a different skill set than yours?
You goal for connecting with your new contact will shape your conversation and the structure of your relationship, as least at first.
Send a friendly, concise email letting the person know it was nice to meet them, reminding them who you were, and asking if you might be able to talk further because you found their ideas, work or expertise compelling.
Step 4: Meet up again
Before meeting with your new contact, prepare yourself to make most out of your short time together. You want to make a good impression and be able to find out the information that you need. To prepare:
- Craft a sentence long pitch about yourself: who are you, what do you do and what you are looking to learn about. For guidance on creating and refining this pitch refer to Dixie Laite’s column about building your personal brand for the DIY Business Association
- Be genuine, positive and on your best behavior. You want to build a positive image for yourself. Networking is not a time to vent your frustrations. You know never who someone is and who they are connected to
- Come up with a few questions to ask in advance and be sure to listen to the answers
- As about further follow up, such as “Who else do you suggest I talk to about this?”
- Follow up with a thank you email or note
Michael Royce, the Executive Director at the New York Foundation for the Arts, suggests you treat everyone nicely when you network because you never know who they are connected to. To his advice I would add that networking and follow up are successful when you are both nice and strategic. When you reach out to a new connection, you also offer them your ideas, skills, and thoughts. Approach your follow up conversations with an open mind and a willingness to be generous and collaborative. The energy and time you take to genuinely connect will make you the kind of person people will extend themselves to help and that people want to meet.
What steps do you take to build your network after a conference?
Eleanor C. Whitney is a writer, arts administrator and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently is a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts and is the author of the forthcoming book Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, which will be released in the spring of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles