The Do’s and Don’ts of networking follow up

Ok, you’ve attended the (virtual) conference and had a fantastic time. You are absolutely buzzing with new ideas and have zillions of contacts. But there’s a problem. Before you go further, you need to come down (and calm down). Yes, it’s not a good idea to go straight into the following week emailing, LinkedIn-ing (is that a verb?), and Twittering like some whirling dervish. You need to think about a strategy. Who did I make contact with? What did I promise to do (as in sending them that article that you both enthused about)? Is there an order of priority? What records should I keep?

Here’s a quick stab at what I normally do, in rough order:

Decide who the key contacts are. Important people are busy (by definition). They are well... busy. Memory fades for all of us across time. If you want to keep in their eye-line, your opening ‘reach out’ needs to be quick, pithy and eloquent.

If you have made a promise, the value of which is time-dependent (articles are quickly overtaken by new articles), then get on the case pronto.

Do some research. Maybe your initial impression of why you and this person might get along is mistaken? Check social media profiles, online and offline publications etc. etc. and decide if there is still a basis for mutual benefit from the connection.

Do your research - BUT don’t over-research. Happenstance and serendipity can both play a huge part in people networking. Sometimes it’s best just to go with the flow. Remember Sliding Doors?

All the above will allow some sort of order to form. A campaign plan. And this is not too strong a word, you will need to approach this like a marketing campaign.

Keep records. I used to work in sales. I still do. If you can recall special things that people told you several years before, it’s a great way to cement and enhance relationships. It might be something as simple as when and where you first met. Those of you already in the corporate world will be familiar with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. Set up your own simple version using your mobile device, laptop or even a good old Rolodex (I’ll let you Google that!). 25

As with all things networking, don’t ask for favours, or even worse, help. Asking for help makes you look like you are helpless. And no one wants to see that. Instead, try to think about how you might be of value to that person. To an extent, what can you ‘gift’ them? What do you know that is both valuable and they might possibly not? Students often say to me at this point ‘Darryl, you are talking rubbish. What could we possibly have to gift?’ Are you kidding me? The act of being a student, the task of studying, is one of deep immersion in a topic that excites and enthuses you. You are, at that point, well on your way to being a world expert in your chosen field(s). You are at the apex of learning - and might never be so again.

If this field of knowledge happens to be one that your new contact also finds interesting, then hey presto, you have something that has potential value. Even expert Professors can’t know everything. And anyway, they have yet to hear your unique, humble (but informed) view on why so and so’s theory is redundant, out of date, or just plain stupid. If you really can’t do this, flattery mostly works. But don’t just say that you enjoyed the talk and that you found it interesting. Say WHY you were enthused by it and what it got you thinking about. BE EXPLICIT. So there you have it, give it a go.

But don’t tarry. I’d love to know your experiences of networking. The who, what, when, where, how and why... Oh yes, and also how you follow up. What methods do you use? What has been most effective? What has been a disaster? (come on, you’re amongst friends, you can tell!)