As you check out of your hotel, the last several days run through your mind. You’ve had a perfect meeting. You’ve met some interesting people, had excellent conversations, and made great connections. You exchanged dozens of business cards and made mutual promises with several people to connect soon afterward.
But on the ride back to the airport, reality sets in. You remember the unfinished business and the problem items you left at the office when you flew out. The to-do list returns. The e-mails have stacked up. Monday arrives, and you’re back into your old routine before you know it. Several days later, you came across the business cards you collected at the meeting. You thumb through them. Not only can you barely recall what someone looked like — who at the time seemed like a great potential connection — but you haven’t the slightest recollection of what you talked about.
Overcome the post-meeting letdown and follow-up failures with this cheat sheet:
1. Follow up and follow through on-site. Follow-up is a time-related concept. After you have a conversation with someone, take immediate actions within 24 hours (e.g., repeat the person’s name three times within the first several minutes; make notes on the back of their business card to trigger what you discussed). Then, send an e-mail or personal message within that same time frame. Follow through, however, is the differentiator. The more elaborate and creative ways you follow up, the more memorable it will be — both to the person with whom you want to connect and yourself. Rather than just sending an e-mail or note, attach an article to the e-mail relating to your conversation.
2. Prioritize your connections. After you’ve collected the stack of business cards and noted the connection you made on the back, narrow them down to a manageable number. You can focus on following through with your best prospects first. An effective way to follow through — while still at the meeting — is to introduce the person with whom you want to establish a relationship to someone who would benefit session.
3. Go above and beyond. Don’t just use traditional networking efforts, which focus on identifying prospects for yourself or figuring out ways this person might help you. As you are talking with someone, ask yourself three additional questions:
1. Is there someone I know who would benefit from meeting this person?
2. Could this person provide information or resources to someone else I know?
3. Has this person impressed me enough to stay in touch and possibly add them to my trusted resource network?
4. Act on what you learned. Review your notes and make an action plan of things you can implement from the conference. Share information with other staff members and your supervisor. Include notes in a report and put them on a calendar to help you stay on track.
5. Have an objective. You attended the conference seeking information, solutions to problems, contacts, or professional enrichment. So, make a point before you leave of defining what change you expect the meeting to help you create and determine the steps to help you make the changes.