I know, it’s summer and we’re trying to relax.
But just in case you find yourself at a networking event in the next few weeks (or plan to be at one this fall), there are a few key ways you can add value to your attendance in addition to your presence at the event. Of course, when you choose the right one, the networking alone provides a return on your investment.
But we’re often so eager for our actual attendance to equal business that we forget that as with any business development opportunity, it’s not one-and-done. In the dating game, while it might be possible for you to meet someone and marry them the same night, and find lasting happiness, it’s much more likely that you spend time getting to know each other before making a commitment. Your business relationships are much the same.
How can you translate those networking moments into business opportunities? There are as many articles and blog posts on this as there are ways to do it, but today, I’m offering up three tips to use after your next event to move the needle.
- Follow up: Listen, I’m sure you’re bored of hearing this advice, but it’s repeated constantly for a reason. First, because it’s good advice, and second, because people fail to do it. Whether you connect on LinkedIn at the event, exchange actual business cards (I think it’s still a thing?), follow the event’s hashtag, or obtain the attendee list, commit to following up with at least three people that you connected with during the event. It can be as easy as sending them an article around the topic of conversation that you had or arranging a phone call to continue your chat, or as involved as introducing them to someone in your network that they might find valuable to know. Bonus points if you connect with them over a meal or coffee and HUGE bonus points if you introduce them to a potential client.Another possible follow-up opportunity can exist too, but has to be done selectively – once, after a conference, someone that had attended the same event but HADN’T connected with me there reached out through LinkedIn to set up a call. It turned out that we had some mutually beneficial opportunities to explore and we made a good connection. That can sometimes work, but as long as you believe there is truly mutual interest, reach out to someone that you may have missed at the event and see if you can engage afterward via the phone or in person. Make sure you know what the ethics rules are for your jurisdiction to ensure that this is something that you’re able to do.
- Share with your colleagues: This can be a challenging one, I know, because it often feels like you’re giving away free value. But hear me out. When you get back from an event, depending on what it is, talk to your colleagues about it – if you have a practice group or partners meeting, share some information about what you learned, why it was valuable, and whether some of them may benefit from attending the next one. Invite key colleagues to join you in some of your in-person follow up if possible, and take advantage of opportunities to introduce them to some of the connections that you’ve met. Not only are you strengthening the relationships that you’ve just created with more members of your firm and showcasing the breadth and depth of expertise that you offer, but you’re also proving yourself to be a valuable team member for your colleagues in a way that they’ll be encouraged to reciprocate. Extra points if you engage your marketing professionals early on and often so that they can help you to identify who might be beneficial to include, and how they can support you through the process.
- Review your LinkedIn list: This takes a little bit more work, but it’s worth it. Your new connections may be spread out all over the place, and you can use LinkedIn to identify other connections that share the same city as they do. Why does that matter? It may be valuable to introduce them to people in their own city who share an interest with them professionally. It helps you to extend the relationship, and you’re already adding value because you’re providing them with a business connection early on. Once you’ve gotten to cultivate your relationships a bit better, and you’re comfortable with them, you can also extend this to your client list and make introductions with your clients who may need assistance in other jurisdictions where you’re not represented, but you have connections. It makes you look proactive and adds incredible value to those relationships. Again, it’s also encouraging those connections to do the same for you.If they’re all in your own city, it’s still worth taking a look – see which connections you have in common – this may help with some due diligence on the relationship, as well as which connections you may want to introduce them to and vice versa. The goal here is not quid pro quo, but how you can be beneficial to them in your new relationship in a way that shows you as someone who adds value.
When you return from your next networking event, don’t just dive back into the tons of emails waiting for you (though I know how tempting that is). Get some follow-up and communication in the pipeline so that you can start to translate your attendance into real business opportunities.