So your pocket is full of business cards. Now what happens next? Instead of leaving your business cards accumulating in a pile at the corner of your desk, it is time to turn these business cards into something valuable. It’s time to starting following up to maintain a professional network of contacts.
Many articles teach you how to network, but few provide you with tips as to how you can maintain a professional network of contacts with new contacts that you have just met. How do you turn that first conversation you had into a lasting, valuable relationship? Have no idea how to do that? Read on to master the art of following up after a networking event.
The first step to maintain a professional network of contacts: Reaching Out
While a networking event is great for you to expand your contacts professionally, the crucial point is to further develop and strengthen the relationship. How so? Yup, you guessed it. The first step is to reach out to your contact. Here are some ways to do so.
LinkedIn is a great way for you to connect with your new contact. Why? Getting a glimpse of your new contact’s profile allows you to get an idea of what their career background is like. This way, you can identify similar goals that makes your connection a huge success.
PRO TIP: When requesting to connect with your contact, add a personalised note saying hi to be more sincere – and to also remind someone of who you are!
A sample message
Hi <name>, we met at <event> and had a really awesome conversation about <topic>. I hope we can exchange more ideas like that in the future – so I’d love to connect with you!
If you want to do it the simple way, why not send a quick email? A short email is a great and reliable way to reach out to your new contact, especially if you are unable to locate them on LinkedIn. But what should your email say?
- Tell them where you have met
It is likely that your contact may have chatted with tons of other professionals, so write a one to two liner which makes reference to where you met. Mention something specific to the conversations you had, to help make your email a bit more personal and make them feel special.
- Thank them and arrange for another meet up
Thank them to show that you appreciate the time they have taken in speaking to you. Doing so would make you look extra genuine, which is the X factor in creating a connection between someone that you are not really close to. For example, you could say “Thank you for taking time to speak with me about XXX at the XXX event. I really appreciate it and enjoyed the conversation”.
A sample message
We previously met at <event> during the networking session – I really appreciated your thoughts on <topic>. Hopefully we can catch up in the next few weeks to keep talking about the ideas we exchanged; I recently read your blogpost on it, too, and would like to share some further thoughts.
Thank you for your time. Let me know when’s a great time to meet and we’ll set something up!
3. Text messages
Text messages are a great way to reach out to your newfound contact if you know that your contact is ever-so-busy. Sometimes their schedules may not permit them from replying emails swiftly and responding to LinkedIn request fast. If so, a text message is short but effective. Drop them a text message so they will be able to respond to you on the go.
A sample message
Hi <name>, Jason from <event> here. It was great chatting with you the other day. If you’re free sometime next week, let’s keep the conversation going. I’ll buy coffee for us!
The second step to maintain a professional network of contacts: Coffee Chats
Give yourself a pat on your back if you have managed to reach out to your contact. Phew, that wasn’t too difficult.
To maintain the network you have with your contact professionally, move on to the next step of scheduling a coffee chat or a meetup over lunch. The beauty of meeting over coffee or lunch is that the meetup will only last for the duration of your break or lunchtime. This way, it’s easier for both parties to commit. During your coffee chat or lunch, get to know your contact’s goals and career better, or dig up potential partnerships or work opportunities.
PRO TIP: Remember to keep everything really sincere and authentic! Show a genuine interest in the other party – it’s easy to tell if you’re bluffing. At the end of the day, you want to build relationships that are lasting, committed and of value to both parties. Show your commitment and sincerity from the start to create that lasting foundation and maintain that network.
The third step to maintain a professional network of contacts: Choosing to follow up further
Once you have gotten to know your new contact more, you would be able to understand the motivations and goals of the contact. If there is a value that both parties can stand to gain out of the relationship, then increase the frequency of the follow-ups to get that relationship really tight. It’s just like any other friendship or relationship – you need to put in time and effort before things bear fruit.
PRO TIP: Show your contact that you’re genuinely thinking of them and not just reaching out so you can gain something from them. Personalise each and every message and keep in touch with them both offline and online.
Now you’re all set to weave your web and have a professional network of contacts. In case you need a headstart, check out different networking events for business development, software engineering, and marketing professionals here.