Whether you’ve attended your first or one hundredth conference this year, turning the people you meet into colleagues and friends can be a challenge. Here are some tips on what to do to nurture your network after an event.
Take time to process.
Whether you do it nightly or once at the end of the conference, take some time to reflect on the people you met. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have notes on scattered scraps of paper with names, emails, and phone numbers. Find an organization system that works best for you (some people use an Excel sheet, others their Gmail contacts) and write down everything you remember about your conversation including their job, interests, and any personal information they shared. You’ll also want to record where you met and when. Once you’ve finished jotting down your notes, it’s time to make contact.
Follow up according to your goal.
Before reaching out, consider your goal is for the relationship. The outreach will look a bit different depending on your purpose. I often find my new contacts fall into one of four categories:
1.Those with whom you need to follow up
You may have promised to send a resource to someone you met, or a specific opportunity might have come up in conversation about which you want to follow up. Reaching out to these people is often the easiest as it is a straightforward contact. Don’t be afraid to share a little bit more about yourself and your areas of expertise or to ask them questions about themselves. You never know how the conversation may continue.
2.Those from whom you want to continue to learn
People in this category have likely been in the field or studied a certain topic longer than you. You admire their knowledge and want to continue to learn from them. If you don’t (currently) see what you have to offer in the relationship, it’s okay to simply reach out and ask for more information. You’ll want to include the following points in your communication:
- Your name
- A reminder about how you met
- A thank you for the helpful information they shared
- A request
The request may be for their slides, or for article and book recommendations if you’re interested in learning more. You’ll also likely want to find them on social media and follow them so that you can continue to learn from their content.
3.Those with whom you want to grow a deeper relationship
I find this is usually the bulk of people I meet and coincidentally also the relationship I find the hardest to nurture. A first point of contact remains the same. Reach out within the first 1-3 days and include the following:
- Your name
- A reminder about how you met
- A thank you or “it was nice getting to know you”
- An offer
If they live in your city and in-person events are still taking place, you might consider offering to meet at a professional development opportunity that you both would find of interest. If the relationship is long distance or needs to be remote due to COVID, you can share information about an upcoming virtual event. If they attend, you can follow up and debrief over email, coffee, or Zoom. If they don’t attend, you can always share the slides and/or a recording with highlights. You should also find the person on LinkedIn so that you can see new articles or posts they share in order to continue the conversation. Finally, you’ll want to check in with the person every month or two with the same approach.
Rad Resource: Hubspot is a great tool for those of us who have a hard time remembering to regularly check in. Simply load your contacts and set reminders for yourself.
4.Other interesting people
These are folks you met who you don’t have an immediate value you can offer, or anything you’d like to ask of them. They’re simply interesting people with whom you’d like to keep in touch. Consider finding these folks on LinkedIn so that you can continue the relationship. When you send your connection request, couple it with a short note reminding them who you are, how you met, and letting them know that you look forward to keeping in touch.
This post was originally featured on the American Evaluation Association’s blog, AEA365 (www.aea365.org/blog).