So, a new day has dawned, and you’ve survived Yet Another Networking Experience. Your head might be spinning from all the new faces and names you encountered last night and, hopefully, you have a nice pile of business cards to fill the gap left by all the ones you handed out.
So, now what?
This, my friends, is where you practice the fine art of following up. As soon as your daily schedule permits, you need to sit down with that pile of new cards and go through them carefully. Refresh your memory of each and every person in the pile and do your best to recall what you talked about before, during, and after the exchange. Those details are about to become useful.
Now get your mind cleared, your fingers limbered up, and write a follow-up email to each and every person who gave you a card. Use a friendly and informative subject line, like “Great meeting you at the Chamber Business after Hours last night!” so they’ll know right away why they’re getting an email from someone out of the blue. Be cordial and even flattering, but don’t over-do it and sound plastic and fake. The email is more effective if you can include a brief comment or reference to something you shared while talking—this not only helps reinforce the encounter in their minds as well, it shows them you were paying attention and hence their time was valuable to you. Going back to my anecdote on my “working a room” post, I mentioned how I interested a couple of people in possibly animating their logo. In my follow-up email I mentioned that possibility again, as well as added a couple of thoughts I had on how I might approach it. If they were part of a small group, such as the two people with the logo, it’s fine to address them all with a single email.
That moment you had their attention last night was fleeting, even if you made a good impression. Now they have something tangible with your name on it, reminding them of that impression, and you’ve become a more permanent fixture in their mind. If you feel especially bold, take this opportunity to pitch something of what you do, or to suggest another meeting where you can have each other’s undivided attention. It can’t hurt!
Networking is, first and foremost, all about building professional relationships. You can’t build something like that from five minutes over a handshake and a beer. Such encounters are just planting a seed, one that needs to be nurtured and watered in order to do the proverbial sprouting thing.
Now go ye forth and reap!