What is the second most important step in networking?
In my book, New Business Networking, I remind my readers how showing up is the most important part of professional networking. When you don't take the time to attend the event you miss out. You have to brush off the fear and excuses and get out to meet new people. If you aren't meeting new people you aren't networking effectively.
The second most important step in networking is the follow-up. I'm willing to bet there is a pile of business cards on your desk that you have been neglecting since the last event you attended. Am I right?
In order to get the most return on your time spent networking you must follow up. When I speak with colleagues about this step they often admit they skip it. Here are some ways to improve your follow up.
Follow-up while you are fresh.
After every conference or networking event allocate time to following up. Set fifteen minutes on your calendar per day to email the people you met. Doing so as soon as possible will help the recipient remember you. The longer you leave it, the less fresh you are in their minds.
Jar their memory.
Attendees at my networking workshops know they must take notes on business cards to help them remember how they should follow-up. When they write that email, they refer back to the note, so they can jar the recipient's memory on what they talked about. For example, perhaps they spoke about a recent hockey game. The sender can include a link to a related story or video from YouTube. This will help the recipient remember them.
Include a call to action.
When you follow-up think of a call to action. What do you want the recipient to do after your email? I like to write a summary blog post about my experiences at a conference. I include the link to the blog post in my follow-up. Perhaps you took photos at the event. You could upload the images to your Facebook page and send a link to the album. This will get the recipient one step closer to liking your page or visiting your blog. Another call to action is an invitation to speak over the phone, or meet for a "no agenda" coffee. Always put yourself in the recipient's shoes when answering the question, "What's in it for me?"
Connect on LinkedIn.
I am a big fan of LinkedIn because it is the most powerful social network for professional networking. Instead of sending the recipient a connection request right away, use email to let them know. Not everyone checks LinkedIn frequently. Mention in your follow-up email that you are going to send them a connection request on LinkedIn, so you can offer an introduction to someone in your network (should they need it). This offers value to the recipient. In your subsequent LinkedIn connection request remind the person how you met, so they are more likely to accept your request.
Following up is a crucial part of networking that is too often overlooked or ignored. Become a better networker by following these steps. Read on for more tips about networking.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.
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