I’ve just returned from a big blogger conference, and while I’ve been to many conferences in my career and have read many articles from “experts” about how to maximize networking at these types of events, I’ve never seen advice on how to maximize the value of your networking efforts AFTER the conference is over.
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? Follow the ten steps I’ve outlined below and you’ll make huge gains for your business from your networking efforts:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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.
- Don’t kiss up (too much) in your emails. If you met a great contact – a famous blogger, 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.
- 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.
- If you have a blog, write a post about the conference the day of or the day after. The best blog posts are current and the sooner you get your post up, the fresher it will be for the people who attended the event.
- If you choose to blog about the conference, make it useful and interesting to read. Don’t simply recap what went on – offer an opinion on it, connect it to something else (another event or an article), or draw some conclusions from it.
- In your blog post include links to any blog posts written by people you met at the conference. They will appreciate being mentioned as long as you do it in a genuine and meaningful way. Just listing the names of people you met and linking to their blogs isn’t as powerful as saying that so-and-so had a great suggestion for a book that you’re now checking out and so-and-so made a great comment or said interesting things on a panel.