A conference is a nice way to increase your value as a professional and while what you learn in them is important, you should pay extra attention to the relationships and connections you can make, you never know who could help you with advice or a business proposition.
Keep in mind that shaking hands and exchanging words does not translate into a 100% secure relationship, making a good first impression helps of course, but what truly matters is how you reach your contacts after the meeting. Take the chance to round up all the business cards you received and take note of their details, like the name of their owner, their digital addresses (like their email and social networking sites) as they will come handy later.
- Contact them as soon as you can! Well, obviously not “I just received the business card” soon, just be sure that it is at least a day after the conference has ended, you don’t want to contact them while the conference is still ongoing as it might be difficult for everyone to have a grasp of the conference and their new contacts at the same time.
There are some exceptions, like if you made a really good connection with someone or if you just met a really important person it might be a good idea to get yourself in their contact list ASAP.
- Write a good presentation email:You will want to write an email to your new contacts, this email should be informal but not too informal, remember that it is still business related, and also avoid writing something boring or robotic, as you want them to remember you. Just a small greeting that mentions something about the conversation you had with them at the conference would work. It could start with something like:
“Hey! It was nice to see you at the conference, I really enjoyed talking about _____ and wanted to add ______.”
After that, you can make the first step and propose a meeting; you could invite your new contact to something like a cup of coffee at an interesting place, do not underestimate the power of a good small talk and a nice second impression.
- Pay attention to what the others tell you: Let me tell you something first, this is advice that will help you everywhere in life. When others talk about their business and personal life, they are giving you big hints about them, who they know, what they might offer you and what you could offer them, do not just sit idle and nod to what they say, listen to them!
- Keep in touch using social networking sites: It is almost impossible to be a professional without using a social networking website, you might think that LinkedIn is enough but people tend to see LinkedIn as a tool to help their careers, other social websites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook tend to be the go-to social networking sites to keep in touch with your contacts in a more friendly and casual way.
Ask them if they use a social networking site and if it is okay to follow/add them if they do not list their social sites directly on their business card.
- Treat your new contacts as friends if everything went right: It is way easier to keep in contact with other people if you give them a nice and friendly treatment. You will also benefit greatly from being nice to others, as people tend to give more favors and open more doors to their friends, win-win!
Remember that you can also use a conference to get yourself known to others, take the chance to make a good business card, one that lists your name, phone number and email clearly, adding your social networking sites is optional but it will help in letting yourself known as a person instead of just a professional.
Use all these steps to make new contacts at every conference you attend and take the opportunity to make them your new friends, good luck!