Following up with New Contacts

Now that you know why you should attend industry conferences/events, how to prepare for them, and what to do while you’re there, it’s time to talk about how you follow up with your new contacts and develop a relationship.

Hopefully you took my advice and made notes on the back of the business cards you collected. Those will come in handy. For example, I went straight from MLB Winter Meetings last week to IMG’s Collegiate Athletics Forum to my birthday celebration. By the time I got home, Winter Meetings felt like a month ago and I had 37 business cards from people I met. If I flip through the cards and come across a name I’m not sure about, those notes will come in handy.

When I visited SMU last week and talked to students about networking, I came up with my new catch phrase for networking: “Make it easy for people to remember you!”

There are roughly a dozen things you can be doing to meet people and make it easy for them to remember you. One of those things is following up with people and mentioning details from your conversation.

After speaking at SMU I received the following email from a student. This is a PERFECT example of the type of email to send. I’ll tell you why after you read the email:

Dear Kristi,

My name is [Jane Doe], I came up and spoke with you after your presentation today at SMU for the sports management class. We spoke about law school and you gave me some tips about finding internships and work experience in the sports field. I just wanted to thank you for coming and speaking to our class. Your PowerPoint and little tips and advice were very helpful and inspirational. I just made a twitter and I am now following you. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your stay in Dallas! Stay warm and thank you again.

Sincerely,

[Jane Doe]

This email covered everything so well I didn’t have to make up a sample email to show you. She noted where she met me. She noted what we talked about in enough detail I remember exactly who she was. She added a compliment. Who doesn’t like that? She was pleasant without sounding insincere or phony. Lastly, she didn’t ask me for anything.

On the last note, let me say that it’s not always the case that you won’t ask for anything. For example, another student I met last week expressed to me her desire to combine her love of PR and sports, but also told me that her one internship in sports PR wasn’t what she thought it would be. I told her I had friends in PR in a variety of sports and with related companies. I offered to introduce her to these people by email if she sent me an email and reminded me. In that instance, it would be perfectly acceptable to remind me of my offer, note your appreciation and state you want to take me up on it.

However, the initial email is not the place to tell your whole life story, send your resume or links to things you’ve written – unless the person specifically asked you to do so. You’ll get the opportunity to do some of these things later, but the initial follow-up is not the place to do it. Don’t overwhelm the person. You wouldn’t ask someone for a loan after the first date, right? Treat this relationship with the same care.

Do send the initial follow-up though. You saw how short that email was. You can do that in five minutes, even during finals. There is no excuse not to send these emails. If you’re not doing to, someone else is (my other new catch phrase). I spoke to a group of roughly 50 students last week and met another dozen or so at Winter Meetings. Want to know how many emails I’ve received? Three.

Whether to send an email or a hand-written note is a personal choice. Hand-written notes are nice, but not necessary. I can tell you that they do make an impression on me, but as long as you follow all the steps I’m going to give you for staying in touch, I’ll remember you anyway.

As for the timing, be sure you send the email or note within a reasonable time period. My rule of thumb is one week, with two weeks being the absolute outside. Doing it while someone can still retrieve the memory makes it easy for people to remember you.

Three main points to take away in order to “Make it easy for people to remember you!”:

1. Send the follow-up, by handwritten note or email.

2. Include some details in your follow-up that help the other person remember you and the conversation.

3. Send the note/email preferably within a week of the conference/event.

Let’s say instead of meeting someone new you met someone you’ve conversed with over email, the phone or even Twitter. If you feel pretty certain the person knows who you are, you can send something even shorter to follow-up. Here’s an email I received from a gentleman who works for an MLB club and has emailed with me in the past and then met me at Winter Meetings:

Great meeting you in Dallas and happy birthday…hope you have/had a good one and look forward to staying in touch in 2012.

[John Doe]

Depending on how fast John types, this probably took one to two minutes. Following up isn’t about the number of words, it’s about doing it effectively. Because John and I have had multiple emails in the past, I remember him without any prompting. Throwing in the happy birthday is a nice touch too (it’s coming up on Tuesday, if you’re curious).

The bottom line is that you should get these emails out in a timely manner. This is the equivalent of making a quick call to ask someone on a second date. There will be more to come, but that’s all you need right now. This isn’t a race. Networking is about relationship building and it takes time just like a romantic relationship.

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