Let me set the scene for you: You go to a great networking event. You leave the room feeling fired up. You met some great people, and you can’t wait to talk to them again.
But then you go back to your office. Maybe you booked a meeting directly after the event, or maybe your day just gets away from you. And as you’re unloading your portfolio or taking off your jacket at the end of the day, you see those four business cards. What happens next is a tale we’re all familiar with.
Those business cards will end up in a stack on top of your desk. That stack will grow and grow until it gets so unwieldy that you have to stick it in your desk drawer. At the end of the year, that drawer is going to hold over 300 business cards that you never did anything with.
We’ve got to do better! We all know we’re supposed to go to networking events, right? But if you don’t do the work to reap the benefits, then what’s the point in going? If you don’t take action after leaving that room, you’ve just gone somewhere and met people, and you can meet people at Costco.
The first hour directly after a networking event is the most crucial. It’s absolutely essential that you not book anything for yourself for one full hour after any networking event. Doing so will give you the space to do the following three things.
1. Stay and Mingle
If you have somewhere to be immediately after a networking event, you’re going to spend the last ten minutes of the event distracted. You may be internally stressing about traffic or other things that might delay you getting to your appointment on time.
If you have nowhere to be, however, you can allow conversations to flow naturally and give them your full attention. Deeper connections arise from better engagement. And really, what’s the point of going to a networking event if you have to sneak out early?
2. Process and Connect
Having that hour free after a networking event also allows you ample time to process all the takeaways and take the necessary next steps. It gives you time to process all the business cards you received in your CRM.
Doing this immediately after the event ensures things will be fresh, and you can make notes on each contact that will be beneficial down the road. There are also a few apps available out there that can help you process business cards immediately.
Once you’ve logged all this information, connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn. I’ve made it into a bit of a game, myself. It’s my personal goal to beat people to connecting first on LinkedIn! I also use this time set a date and a calendar reminder to follow up and reconnect with each person I met at an event.
3. Take Action
This last step is the most important, but of course you can’t get to it without doing the others first. Now that you have laid the groundwork, you’ll have a legitimate reason for calling when you follow up on that date you set for yourself after the event. The person is now more than just a name on a business card—they’re a potential partner.
Because you were able to engage fully with people at the event and then process their information immediately after, you have a solid base to work from when reaching out to deepen the relationship. You will be able to speak knowledgeably about where you met them and what you talked about. You can explain why you’re following up before asking them to meet for coffee.
Networking events might feel like a hassle to you. Or you might love it but find that you haven’t reaped much in the way of rewards from it in the past. The reality is that networking is an essential and powerful tool for business people of all stripes.
But if you don’t make an actionable plan about how you’re going to take what you got out of an event and turn it into something tangible, your networking becomes a waste of your time. Stop wasting your time, and start creating results!
If you get to an event and realize that you have somehow forgotten to bring business cards, my recommendation is that you create a specific contact card for yourself in your phone and text it to people immediately upon chatting with them at the event. Make sure it clarifies who you are and what your company does, and that it doesn’t include any personal information (address, home phone).
Until next time—go sell some stuff!