Going to networking events–or industry events where networking is appropriate–can make all of us nervous at times. We feel like we need to have the perfect elevator pitch, the perfect outfit. We need to be outgoing but not overwhelming, interesting but not self-involved. Passionate but not too intense.
If you have managed to put all of that together and meet some people, the next steps may not be clear. Here are our tips for making that ten-minute conversation the beginning of a real relationship:
- Use your database–Whether you collected paper business cards or QR codes in your smartphone, add that information to your contacts, and don’t forget to note where and when you met and a word or two about what you discussed.
- Sort for follow-up–Put each person you met into a category for a particular level of future contact. Do they need a simple “It was nice to meet you at…” or do they warrant an invitation for coffee or a request for an informational interview?
- Follow through–Did you offer someone assistance? Get in touch with them first thing the next business day so they know you were serious. And then follow through. It’s very easy to let offers like this fall through the cracks, but those are missed opportunities. Think like an entrepreneur.
- Send invitations–Invite your new contacts to connect with you on social media. Be sure to personalize invitations and remind them where you met and what you talked about. On Facebook, you can add them to a business-oriented list if you don’t want them to see all of your personal posts, and then make sure you customize your posting status groups. Don’t neglect LinkedIn!
Showing up at networking events seems like the hard part–and in many ways it is. But it can be a waste of time and energy to do all that if you don’t keep the real goal in mind–building relationships.
Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative