I’ve just recently returned from a conference and it was an incredible experience.
So it can be pretty overwhelming to return home with a suitcase full of business cards and a ton of great ideas for collaborating, but not have any clue on where to start. For a lot of us, those business cards end up in a drawer, along with all our plans to follow up. So, how do you go about prioritizing your contacts and coming up with a game plan for connecting with them after the conference is over?
Here are seven steps that will help you make gains for your business from your networking efforts:
1. Organize all the business cards you collected into two piles: Now and Later. In the “Now” pile you should put the cards of people to whom you plan to reach out within a few days of the conference taking place; these are your “high priority” contacts. All of the other cards go in the “Later” pile. This will help you to prioritize and feel less overwhelmed by the amount of follow-ups you want to do.
2. Make notes on the back of the business cards you collected to help you with your follow-up. If you have an idea about how you might work with someone you met, write it down. If you talked about something you want to remember, write it down. Memory fades faster than you think, especially if you are meeting lots of different people.
3. Don’t send out any follow-up emails the day immediately following the conference. Everyone who attended is overwhelmed with a full inbox of unanswered emails – your email could simply get lost or ignored among all those other unanswered messages.
4. Personalize every follow-up email you write. People like to feel that you truly remember them so include one sentence in your email that draws upon a conversation you had at the conference or is in some way specific to this particular person. (This is where note-taking comes in handy).
5. Offer something in your email that is useful for your contact. Example: I really enjoyed talking to you about (insert topic here) and I thought you would find this resource (insert name of book, website, blogger, etc.) useful or relevant.
6. Don’t kiss up (too much) in your emails. If you met a great contact – Author, CEO – avoid blatant kissing up. It will come off fake. Keep it real and if you want to pay someone a compliment about something they said or did, do it without overdoing it.
7. When you send follow-up emails, keep them short and include an action step or a question that leads to continued communication. Keep the conversation going to develop a relationship with a contact that you made.