How many times have you paid money to attend a high-end business conference or networking event and never followed up with any of the connections you made? If this has happened, you’re doing a major disservice to your networking efforts as well as your career progression and business success.
Networking should never stop when the event ends. The event is only the beginning; it’s an opportunity to make new connections and for people to get to know you. After the event is where the real magic happens.
The actions that you take, or don’t take, are what define you as “just an employee” who tags along to business events, or a “leader” who proactively participates and strategically grows their network while they’re there.
Walking out of a business event, especially one that you paid to attend, and never following up with your new connections is a huge mistake.
To help you avoid this mistake and make the most of your networking efforts, below I want to share with you five ideas on how you can leverage the business conference or networking event for your business success.
1. Add new connections to your list of VIP contacts.
You might not want to keep in touch with every person you meet at the event. But it’s likely there will be some people with whom you would like to invest time in establishing a business relationship. These are your VIP contacts. You need to keep them stored on a paper list, spreadsheet or CRM – somewhere you can access them on a regular basis.
Action step #1: Set a schedule to follow-up with your VIP contacts every 2-3 months by phone or email. Share resources (articles, interviews, podcasts, white papers, or case studies) that would not only interest them but would also help them solve a challenge they’re facing in business.
2. Connect with your new connections on LinkedIn.
Business events are where you establish the “know” element of the “know, like and trust factor”. You cannot expect to establish anything more than somebody getting to “know you” at a networking event. However on LinkedIn you have the power to not only further build the “know” element but also to move that relationship to “like” and “trust”. This is often overlooked because it take time, patience and strategic actions on LinkedIn.
Action step #2: Send a “request to connect” with the people you meet at the event. Once connected, share insightful articles, thought-provoking questions, and powerful opinions either through the public “post” function or a private direct message.
3. Write an article about your experience at the event (and share it on online).
This is a fantastic opportunity to position yourself as a person of authority. By talking about a business event from a first-person perspective, sharing your takeaways and the things you learned, you put yourself in an “advisor” position in the eyes of your connections. You teach them things they didn’t know and open their minds up to a new way of thinking.
Action step #3: Reflect on the event through an article and post it on your personal website, blog, or LinkedIn. It increases your visibility and influence.
Note: Don’t do this step for every networking event you attend. Save it for the larger, high-end business events that others may have missed out on getting a ticket for.
4. Have a phone conversation with your new connections.
How often do people chicken-out on picking up the phone for a one-on-one conversation and send an e-mail instead? Yes, e-mail is less time consuming, but there is simply no substitute for a real-time conversation with another person. And if it’s a VIP connection that you want to build a relationship with, isn’t it worth 20-minutes of your time talking to that person?
Action step #4: Pick up your phone, dial in your contacts number and initiate a phone conversation with them. Remind them of where you met and invite them to an in-person coffee meeting or Skype call.
I’m afraid that the art of having a phone conversation has been lost. However, given that less people do this nowadays, it will work in your favor and make you stand out.
5. Talk about the key takeaways at your next meeting.
It will not only position you as a leader in the eyes of your boss, but you might also motivate your colleagues to go to a high-end business conference or networking event in the future.
Action step #5: After the business event, jot down a 2-5 takeaways you have from that event. Talk about these takeaways at your next meeting. What did you learn from the speakers at the event? What did you learn from the conversations you had with others? What was your overall feeling walking out of the event?
Business conferences can provide a wealth of opportunity and information for all professionals. But you must approach them with a proactive mindset and a strategy so you can leverage it for your personal and business success.