You return home after a networking event and empty your pockets, putting the business cards you collected onto the desk. What comes next?  If you are one of those people who organize them in neat piles, tied with a rubber band and a promise to get to them someday, just toss them in the trash!   Why – because people have a short memory.

What did you have for lunch? Be honest, do you remember what you had for lunch three days ago?  I bet you don’t.  And yet the interaction you had with you lunch was significantly more intimate, than the conversation you had at the networking event. So if you can’t remember what you ate three days ago, how can you expect someone to remember you a week later? When you come home from a networking event, you have 24 – 48 hours to follow up.  After that it is too late!  No one said this was easy.  Networking is work!

Choose a few Great Connections If you have met quite a few people, sort through the cards, select one or two with whom you want to follow-up. Send an email or better yet a hand written card within 48 hours.  The note does not have to be long.  It should however, remind the person where you met, and open the door for a future conversation. When evaluating with whom you want to follow up and stay in touch, think about what you can do for them.  Be fair, if you can’t see yourself ever referring any business their way, don’t waste their time or yours cultivating the relationship.

What Makes Good Follow Up? If you were asking good questions and really listening during your brief networking conversation, you probably have a few ideas.  Consider an article on a topic of interest or an electronic introduction to someone you think they should meet.  Do not use this first contact after a networking event as an opportunity for a sales pitch:

“Hi, I enjoyed meeting you and by the way if you are looking for____.” That not-so-subtle approach says “I am not really interested in you, unless you want to buy something.”  An experienced networker knows it may take a few conversations to move to the sale mode, but when you get there, you have a greater chance of success.