Kid Dressed as a Nerd with Big BowtieCongratulations! You’ve prepped, you’ve attended, and now it’s time to conquer with a smart post-conference outreach plan. Just a few more steps to go before you can kick back, relax, and give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done.

1. Catch your breath and get organized

You’ve just emerged from a networking cyclone and you deserve a break, so whatever you do to relax and recharge, go do that and I’ll wait right here until you get back …
All done? Great! Now it’s time to get organized. Sort your cards into two piles, one for “now” and one for “later”, but hold back on reaching out to the “nows” right away because their recharge activity might take longer than yours – give them 48 hours to get back to normal and in the meantime ….

2. File it for later

Create and save a document outlining the pros and cons of the conference, whether or not you’d recommend attending next year, and any tips or suggestions should you decide to return. Having a record of your feedback while it’s still fresh in your mind will help you make future decisions about which conferences to attend.

3. Show your face

This is where using LinkedIn for your initial outreach can come in handy. Your profile picture will accompany the invitation helping to jog your new contact’s memory. Digital business cards are also an easy way to share your contact information, while helping to put a face to a name as many templates allow you to include a photo as well.

4. Message in a bottle (or at least an inbox)

A phone call is the most personal way to connect with someone, but email is less invasive. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the phone to follow up, but my advice here is to think of how you would feel if this person called you. If a call from them would be a big surprise, maybe ease into the communication with an email – not everyone likes surprises.

5. And what exactly, do I put in that email?

Sending a, “Hi! It was nice to meet you … umm … Okay, bye!” email isn’t exactly going to get the ball rolling on a flourishing professional relationship. Here are my tips for the perfect follow-up email:

  • Personalize it – Introduce yourself and then mention something specific from the conversation you had when you met (aren’t you glad you put notes on the backs of those business cards now?)
  • Flattery will get you nowhere – By all means, feel free to pay someone a compliment, just avoid laying it on too thick or you’ll come across as insincere.
  • Keep it short – We’ve all been there before, you open an email only to be assaulted by line after line of never-ending text. Your eyes start to glaze over, your mind starts to wander, and before you know it you’ve accidentally deleted the email with no recollection of what it said or who it was from. This scenario is obviously something you want to avoid.
  • Lend a hand – Let’s be honest, you’re reaching out to this person for selfish reasons. If you didn’t see some way to benefit from this new connection they’d be in your “later” pile of business cards, so how are you going to separate yourself from all the other selfish people vying for their attention? HELP THEM! Look at your notes and see if you can immediately identify an unaddressed need – do you have a relevant article/blog/other resource to share, another conference to recommend, or a person you can connect them with? Focus on them, try to learn more about their goals and frustrations and then find a way to offer your help.
  • Include a call to action – how often has your follow up email been met with, “It was nice to meet you too, thanks for following up!” Where are you supposed to go from here? To keep the conversation going, you need to include an action step or a question that will garner a response and keep the conversation going.

6. One more thing! Don’t drop the ball and don’t get discouraged

After the initial post-conference buzz, communications between you and your new contacts will dwindle and that’s okay, it doesn’t mean you weren’t successful! The key is to touch base every now and then with a link to an article they might find interesting or to solicit their advice/opinion on a matter you know they can relate to. If nothing else, you can always follow up in a year’s time to see if they’re heading back to the same conference.

What are your post-conference networking tips?

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About the author: Megan McMillan is one of iWave’s Marketing Managers.

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