You Went to a Networking Event, Now What?
Don’t do what most people do: leave networking events with a stack of business cards that end up in a desk drawer, never to be looked at again. According to Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resumes, the real work begins after the networking event. There are two simple words that describe what you should do next: follow up.
Organize Your New Contact Information
Review the business cards you collected, looking specifically for people who might be able to influence your business or job search. You can buy a binder or Rolodex to organize the cards you gathered, or download an application like ABBYY Business Card Reader or ScanBizCards that will use the camera on your iPhone or Android to scan the business cards and add their information directly into your phone contacts.
Send a Note, Via Email or Snail Mail
As soon as you return home or get back to the office, make notes about what happened at the event and plan your next contact with those you’ve met. Preferably within 24 hours, send an email to each person you’ve held a meaningful conversation with at the event, telling them that you appreciated meeting them and that you’d like to keep in touch. Include a link to an article or a book reference relating to something that you may have talked with them about, just to show that you were paying attention.
According to thank-you-notes.com, you might consider sending a handwritten note to any particularly strong connections you might have made or those you’ve spent a significant amount of time with. When writing these notes, personalize them for each contact, taking care to mention something discussed between the two of you when you met.
Connect on Social Media
Send your contacts an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social media channel you might have in common, and, if possible, follow them on Twitter. By connecting on platforms like Facebook, you will know your new contacts’ birthday, occupation, and have access to their status reports, which can all serve as starting points for more conversation.
If you blog, consider posting about the event while it is still fresh in your mind. Use bullet points to highlight ideas and things that you may have learned. Include pictures if possible, and tag some of the people you’ve met.
If you have a website and you list it on your business card, check to make sure it’s up to date and represents you accurately. Just as you want to find out more about those you’ve met at a networking event, others will undoubtedly be looking at your blog or website and checking out your profile on social media for the same reason.
Inventory Your Supplies
If you collected an impressive stack of business cards at the event, assume that you also gave an equal amount of yours away. Check your stock and make sure you have enough cards for the next event so you don’t have to order them overnight and incur additional expense. Always keeping an adequate amount of networking supplies on hand will also come in handy for those impromptu events that will invariably come your way.
Pay It Forward
Always remember to thank the host of a local event — another potential connection you can make. Tell them you’d like to be included in future events if possible, and consider inviting them to other events that you plan to attend that they might not know about.
Then, if they come to the networking event you suggested, introduce them to someone else while there. This not only dispels the “it’s about me” mentality that exudes from many people that frequent networking events, it also makes a favorable impression on the person you invited. After all, chances are they’ll always remember the person — you — who made an introduction that may have actually benefitted them.
Jan Hill is a freelance journalist who writes for Vistaprint, a leading source for custom-designed business cards and other marketing products for entrepreneurs and business owners across the globe. Jan has covered branding and networking topics for over 10 years.