You’re invited to a networking event, conference or trade show. You’re excited and honored that you’ve been invited, and you book the day, or the evening off, well in advance. You know that this will be a great opportunity to meet new people, make new connections and expand your network.
You do your due diligence: you research who’s going to be there, what the dress code is, and prepare a self-introduction that’s relevant to the event. You meet a handful of new, potentially-valuable contacts, all of whom will be assets to your network, and many of which you know you will be able to help. All in all, this was one of your more successful events, and you leave feeling pretty good about yourself. Definitely time well spent!
Great! Now What?
Networking is a fantastic way to meet new people and grow your network. One of the most common mistakes when it comes to networking may not be what you think. It’s not having one too many drinks, forgetting business cards or getting the dress code totally wrong – which, of course, are all major faux-pas. The biggest mistake is, in fact, not following up with the new contacts you’ve made.
According to our president, Diane Craig, Canadians fall short on following-up with their new connections. Why is this? Perhaps, as Canadians, we are simply overly polite and feel as though we may be “bothering” others by following up! This is a huge networking blunder, as following-up is the most critical part of networking.
The word “work” is in networking for a reason. Remember – you are not invited to go networking simply to have a good time or because you’re hungry or thirsty (which is why you should always eat before you go!). You’re invited for your good company and to explore new connections. In order to make the most out of your networking experience, it’s imperative that the follow-up occurs, otherwise it is a futile exercise.
How to Follow Up
Here is a step-by-step list to help you follow-up:
- Collecting business cards is, of course, the first order of business. You cannot assume that other people will follow-up with you just because you gave them your card.
- When you’ve confirmed your attendance at an event, schedule the time to follow-up! Many times, people do not follow up because they get busy, life takes over.
- While the information is fresh, be sure to write notes on every card. What was said? What was the focus? What can you do for that person? What angle should you take for your follow-up? Staying organized in this manner is critical, especially if you connected with many new individuals.
- Connect by email the next day. Remember to keep in mind your approach for each follow-up – a generic message to everyone isn’t a good idea. You want it to be personal and meaningful (which does not have to mean complicated).
- Connect on LinkedIn! Send a personal note reminding the contact of where you met.
- Persistence is important. If you don’t receive a reply reach out again in a week, and one final time, a few weeks later.
At Corporate Class we say, “your network is your net-worth.” The bigger and broader in scope your network is, the better. Attending networking events of any kind is one of the best ways to do this, as long as you follow-up with your new connections!