Professional events like IFT18 are a great way to meet new connections and add to your professional network. But after the event is over—when you’ve met all sorts of interesting people and your pockets are padded with business cards—it can sometimes feel a little a little overwhelming. Where do you begin? When should you follow up? And what are the best practices around all of this?
I recently spoke with Michael Spence, a brand consultant for Coaching Performance Results and a presenter at IFT’s EMERGE Live event, “Leveraging LinkedIn for Career Success,” and he shared some great tips for how you can follow up with new contacts after an event:
Step One: Prioritize
“First, I would prioritize the cards and the names I have,” says Spence. “Is it someone I want to collaborate with immediately? Is it someone with a potential business relationship? Or is it someone I just want to add to my network? Organize things by priority—from hot to cold—because the truth is, you may not ever get through that whole pile of business cards.
“When I leave an event, if there was someone I really connected with, I would follow up in the parking lot or at the airport. If I got their phone number, I would text them, or I’d send them a LinkedIn request with a personalized message attached to it. You just want to connect with them and give them a little reason why you’re reaching out. From there, I would send out any emails and whatnot once I’m back in the office.
“You don’t really want to ask for anything at that point, you just want to say you enjoyed meeting them and why you enjoyed meeting them. And you want to strike while the iron’s hot.”
Step Two: Timing
“If it’s a hot connection, I don’t think you wait five days to follow up,” says Spence. “If it’s someone that impacted you and you feel like you have an opportunity, you should make that first touch really quickly—either that day or the day after. But if it’s Friday and you’re out of town and flying back, maybe Monday isn’t the best day to follow up because they’re likely playing catch-up back at the office. So maybe you wait until midweek and then reach out and ask if you can have some time on their calendar toward the end of the week.
“If it’s someone you met locally and you think you might have an immediate opportunity, then follow up right away. But if they might, say, hire you in five or ten years down the road, just follow up with an email after a few days to showcase your follow-up skills. There is no magic timeline, but all things considered, get in touch sooner than later.
“And if you had a conversation that felt like a natural next-step would be continuing the conversation, then pick up the phone. Because if the relationship is warm, then people are going to be happy to call you back. If they don’t call, then send them an email, but I think that email gets ignored more than anything else.”
Step Three: Follow-Up
“When you follow up, one of the “do’s” is to remind them of what you were talking about when you first met, so you can return to the warm conversation that this all started with,” says Spence. “The second tip would be to have a goal when you have that follow-up conversation, and then state that at the beginning. Don’t make them guess about why you’re talking or meeting. Just put that out there up front. If they’re talking to you, they want to help you, so you should have a clear ask so they can help you and address it in the shortest amount of time.”
Want more tips on how to develop your personal brand and network with purpose? Check out our free on-demand webcast, “Leveraging LinkedIn for Career Success.”