As you’re returning to work after a successful meeting or conference, it’s important to not just settle back into your routine. Now’s your chance to take the momentum built from attending seminars, networking and socializing, and channel it toward following up with interesting and knowledgeable industry professionals you met who can contribute to your career.
After all, you didn’t take those business cards for nothing. Here’s a little insight on how to use them and continue networking after your convention is over.
First, get organized. Chances are, during your event, you met and engaged more people than with whom you can or want to continue a business relationship. According to this blog post from IdealistCareers.org, you should take notes on business cards as you collect them, jotting down briefly where you met the person, what you talked about, and if you agreed to have a follow-up conversation. That way, when you’re going through the cards after the event, it will be easier to connect names to faces. Then select which ones are most important and start your post-conference networking there.
Next, make initial contact with the members on your short list. In an online article, Forbes suggests sending a concise email that simply conveys you enjoyed meeting them and reflects back on a topic from your conversation, like a project they had coming up, or their child’s baseball championship game. Then throw in a casual but straightforward offer to meet up so you can continue discussing whatever connection point you shared in the first place.
In this day and age, it’s also essential to connect through social media venues. Find your contact on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and send a request their way. Not only will that help you get to know the person better, but you can stay generally informed of what’s going on with them. Follow their updates and posts so when they experience significant life or career occurrences – such as a job promotion, a new child, a media interview, or a work anniversary – you can personally make contact with a brief note or email.
When setting up your one-on-one meetings, be clear about your intentions or expectations. Maybe you haven’t developed any yet, and that’s alright. Just go, enjoy the conversation about work you’re mutually passionate about, and further explore what needs of theirs you hope to meet, or vice versa. Forbes advises giving first and expecting nothing in return, stating it’s important “to seek out opportunities in which you can help someone with a need they have.”
When you’re able to, go out of your way to meet the other person wherever it is convenient for them. At the very least, select a location midway between you both. If you met someone from another state or country, find out what other upcoming conferences you both are attending and plan a meet-up sometime during the event.
Most importantly, remember that conversation is powerful and “when you’re talking to someone, you’re actually speaking to their entire network,” Forbes states. Even when conducting a casual follow-up meeting with a new contact, be professional, helpful and honest so you can build rapport and trust. Those two elements are critical to successful networking.