You’ve visited the conference and are back in the office. So what do you do now to maximise your time away and the connections made?
So many people attend a conference with grand expectations of meeting new clients, signing great deals, learning vital information and accelerating their business career. Some of this can be done at the conference but most of it is done in the two weeks following the conference.
Experience shows that if these activities are left to a later time that the hard work that you have put into conversations in preparation for the conference will be diluted or lost and forgotten.
What to do with all those business cards?
During the conference you are likely to receive a large number of business cards, links to information and opportunities to connect with other people that you have talked with during the conference. Ideally each business card that you have received is from someone who is interested in learning more about you and what your business represents. Hopefully when you look again at the business card you remember the person that you spoke to and are ready to follow up.
From past experience if you know that you have difficulty in remembering the people that you have met at the conference; make sure that you write a note on the back. Don’t be embarrassed to do this in the presence of the person that has given you the business card if you need to. Surprisingly the other person will be impressed and feel complimented that you are taking the time and effort to write some particular notes.
If you are attending a roundtable where you receive those business cards from each of the other people at the roundtable but do not have the opportunity to speak with them individually, make sure that you write on the back of each business card the roundtable topic as this will be vital when completing your post conference follow-up.
Some of the people that you meet will have been speakers at the conference. Be sure that you make a particular note of this on the back of the business card that you receive from the speaker, while you walk to the next session, so that you have the opportunity to complement that person during your follow-up.
Equally, if you meet someone that has given your business card and you have no wish to correspond with them again, make sure that you put an appropriate coded message on the back of the business card so that you do not accidentally send them a business invitation. Be sure to make this note carefully just in case you drop the business card or worse still, hand that business card to another person by mistake when you intended to hand out your own business card. You can be guaranteed that the person receiving the card will notice that you’ve given out the wrong business card, turn it over and read the note on the back. You definitely do not want to give out such a card if it clearly states something rude or offensive.
Business card collection
In the course of collecting the business cards, you should have kept them in time and date order. Each evening at the conference make sure that you keep that pile of business cards in the same order so that the entire pile of business cards can be secured with a rubber band to take back home. Do not let the business cards fall out of order as it will make it far more difficult for you to remember which person you met and which conversation you had, details which will be important if you wish to write a personalised follow-up after the conference.
Out of curiosity, count how many business cards you collected over the duration of the conference and make an assessment as to whether you will be able to cope with sending out information to each of the people and think about whether the strategy that you used at this conference is applicable for future conferences or needs to be improved. In the days following the conference, this is an important evaluation process that you should undertake so that you can learn and improve.
Within the bundle of business cards that you receive, there will always be some that represent a person that is of a higher priority and needs to be corresponded with more urgently than others. Flick through the business cards without having them fall out of order and make that assessment. If you do send out correspondence, mark the business card to show that a follow-up has already been completed. There is nothing worse than sending out duplicate information particularly to someone that you rate as strategically important.
Many people subscribe to LinkedIn as a good networking source. For those that do, each person that you have met at the conference provides you with the opportunity of a new person to add to your LinkedIn site. When you send an invitation, try to avoid the standard invite which may be rejected and instead add in a personalised note referring to your meeting at this particular conference.
When the person accepts your invitation, you should have a follow-up message ready to send to that person with appropriate attachments of information and a call to action.
As you look through the details of people that you have met at a conference, whether it is via a business card, conference app or exhibition handout; try to avoid sending each person an identical message. The more personalised the information, the more memorable and likely that the time and effort that you are taking to do the follow-ups will be productive.
Remember also that one post conference email may not be enough to establish a future business relationship and that you need to diarise further action into the future.
Using an Excel spreadsheet or another database, it is relatively simple to create a schedule of the people that you have met, a description of key topics that were discussed and an action plan. This information can be used both to follow-up for future collaboration and business opportunities but more importantly for conversations should you meet that person at another conference.
More and more people are so busy that they forget past meetings. You will stand out if you do remember them. If you create a short note which can then be transferred into your smart phone database for each particular person, the more you will be able to carry with you retrievable information which will enable you to build up further business and networks.
A successful business conference is the combination of good preparation in advance so that you can identify people to meet and outcomes that you wish to achieve and implementing them. At the conference you need to put those plans into action so that you can have many conversations with people that will happily provide you with the details and be willing to deal with you into the future. Once that hard work is done, it is still essential that you complete the post conference networking process so that you can convert from a conference relationship into an ongoing business relationship with the person that you have met. Transferring this into a database significantly increases the leverage that you gain from that information and simplifies your plans for future conferences and business expansion.
- Need some tips on networking? Check out 11 ways to network like a pro.
This is the final in a series of articles detailing what you need to know about attending a conference.