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Two for Tuesdays: Post-Conference Networking

We’ve been full of networking tips here at Zen lately with the ILN’s European Regional Meeting happening last week. It’s only fitting that I sum that up with some post-conference networking suggestions on this week’s Two for Tuesdays!

Tip One: Connect & Share

Any time you leave a conference, whether it’s an ILN conference or not, it’s hard to keep the momentum going as you face a mountain of work and personal responsibilities. It seems to get more and more difficult to step away from the office these days – I know I’m always trying to prepare to leave and spending time catching up when I return, even when I’m checking in and working the entire time I’m away!

But forgetting to do a few simple things after a conference can really take away from all of the headway you’ve made in networking. So add in these few things to your to-do list today (force yourself to do one each day, rather than trying to do them all at once!) and it will make a big difference in your efforts.

  • Connect on LinkedIn: Get out the attendee list that you got at the conference, or that stack of business cards you’re taking home, and send an invite to connect on LinkedIn. Personalize the invitation with something you learned during your conversations, which will both remind your new connection about who you are and will offer an excuse to continue chatting.You may think that adding them into your email database is just as good, but LinkedIn will not only offer you easy access to information on their areas of specialty, but it will provide them with the same for you, which will help with future referrals.
  • Send some photos: You’ve got to upload your conference photos at some point, and whether you’ve taken them with a digital camera, or just your cell phone, you’re sure to have some fun and funny memories on there. Send those (either get them printed and mail them, or for a shortcut, send the digital files) on to your new connections. It will make them smile as they remember a fun memory of you, and give them a visual reminder of your new or continuing relationship.From experience, I can tell you that I know exactly who has remembered to send me their photos after a conference – I can still remember them years after an event. So it’s definitely a memorable thing to do.
  • Follow up: Is there something you discussed while at the conference that you could follow up on? Perhaps there was a possible referral that you wanted to discuss in more detail, or an article you read that you’d like to share. It may be something more personal – one of the wines at dinner invited some more discussion with another delegate, so you send him a bottle of your favorite wine. Maybe you talked about a favorite dish, which your new friend is dying to try, so you send her your family recipe. We make so many connections during a conference that it can be easy to forget what we said we’d follow up on when we return home – make some notes right away and schedule that follow up, so you can keep those conversations and connections going.
  • Thank your host: In some cases, the conference or event is hosted by someone – an organization, a firm, an individual, etc. When that happens, nothing is nicer than sending a personalized thank you note – especially if it’s handwritten. Take a few moments to pen some words of thanks to your host, noting what you enjoyed the most about the conference, party, meal, conversation, etc. and send it out within the first week. It will help you stand out to your host, plus, it’s a nice thing to do.This is something that my lawyers, especially the Europeans, are excellent at – the first thing they do on Monday morning is to send a follow up email to thank the hosts and the ILN Administration.  It really goes a long way to cementing their relationships.

Tip Two: Make Plans

The follow up we discussed above is key, and each of those ideas is something that won’t take you too much time to accomplish. And if that’s all you do after a conference, it’s a great start. But the real benefit will come if you also throw in a little future planning.

  • Take out your calendar:Look through your calendar for the next six months. Do you have any business travel coming up that will bring you to the city of one of your conference friends? If so, give yourself a calendar reminder for a few weeks beforehand to reach out to that person about getting together. Business trips are hectic, and it can be difficult to make time for extra networking, but it’s well worth it to add to the efforts you made during the conference by seeing them again one-on-one when you’re traveling at another time during the year.As you’re looking through your calendar, also make note of when the next event is for the organization. They may have already released dates for the next conference, and you’ll want to make sure you keep those dates free so that you can attend. Consider blocking off the day before as well, and reaching out to some of your new connections to see if they’d also consider arriving early and getting together. Some of the best networking happens in smaller groups outside of the official conference activities.
  • Remind yourself to connect:As we’ve already discussed, we all get so busy when we’re in the office that it can be difficult to continue the momentum of a conference. So while you’re still thinking about your new relationships, make some reminder for yourself. If you’re not traveling to a city where one of your new connections lives, give yourself another excuse to contact them in a few weeks’ time. Set up a calendar reminder to reach out and see how they’re doing, either with a phone call or an email. Ask whether they’ll be at the next conference, or if they may be traveling to your city at some point. Send them an article that reminded you of them recently, or something funny that you saw online that you know fits with their humor.While in an ideal world, we would all just remember to reach out and nurture our relationships, it can sometimes take these calendar reminders to get us to do it. Don’t assume that you’re just going to remember – you may, but we’re all extremely busy people these days and there’s no reason not to use the built-in assistance that technology offers us. Reminders will take the burden of remembering right off your shoulders.

So as you return to the office from a conference, excited to implement new ideas and missing your conference friends, do some follow up to ensure that you keep those relationships active and engaged in between face to face visits!