Networking: How to Follow Up
Many people insist networking events can potentially lead to jobs. So you attend and meet a plethora of connections…now what? Even if networking doesn't exactly come naturally, here are a few tips for following up that straddle the line between overeager and uncaring.
While You’re Still at the Networking Event
Let the person you’re talking with know you’ll be following up with them shortly. Not only does this give them a heads up of what to expect, it holds you accountable and all but guarantees you won’t slack off once you go your separate ways. Always carry a pen with you to jot down notes on his or her business card to remind you of what you spoke about—this will give you plenty of fuel for your follow-up correspondence. Which leads to…
Follow up Within 24-48 Hours
This is one of those times where you might feel you’re being too pushy if you respond quickly, but it’s vital to reignite the conversation before the momentum (and your conversation partner’s memory) fades. Whether it’s by email, phone call, or some other method of communication, time is of the essence.
Use Social Media to (Professionally) Connect
Instead of connecting via LinkedIn to every single business card you picked up, choose the ones with whom you had a substantive conversation, and go from there. Also feel free to “like” your contact’s business on Facebook, but do not send a personal friend request—you want to come off as enthusiastic, not creepy.
Refer to a Specific Topic You Discussed at the Event
While it would be wonderfully flattering for every single person you meet at a networking event to remember your name, that’s just not the case. This is why it’s important to mention a specific point you discussed with him or her—preferably worked into a conversation in which you offer to help in some way.
Offer to Assist
While we want our contacts to help us (land a job, introduce us to someone, become a client, etc.), it’s important to remember we can help them, as well. Whether it’s sending them more information on a topic you had discussed or offering recommendations on the most interesting business journals you’ve read, flagging yourself as a useful contact will help make you that much more memorable to them down the line.
If Feasible, Ask to Meet Again in Person
A business lunch or even a quick coffee meet-up can cement your place in your contact’s mind. It also gives you a great opportunity to reconnect on a one-on-one basis, without the added pressure and formality of an official networking event. Make the request low pressure and low key, and always tie it into wanting to further a previous discussion you had and/or your desire to learn more about a topic in which your contact has expertise.
What Do You Do if You Don’t Hear Back?
While it can be incredibly disheartening if your networking follow up isn’t reciprocated, it’s important to keep in mind that no response doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is not interested in furthering your business relationship. We’ve all been there—a major project comes up, a personal crisis appears, or we simply have an abnormally hectic week that doesn’t leave us any extra time or energy to reach out. Touch base with your contact on a regular, but not annoyingly frequent, basis (usually once or twice a month is sufficient). Continue to keep the follow ups brief but valuable, and chances are good you’ll eventually get a response.
Putting yourself out there at a networking event can be daunting, and following up afterward can be even more so. But if you stick with just a few basic rules, you can make the most out of the conversations you have…which can lead to bigger and better things!