One of the fundamental rules of attending a networking event comes into play after the event is over.  If you miss out on it, then you might as well have stayed home and not wasted your time or money.

The rule, of course, is that you must follow up.

Even the best networkers have a few business cards from people lying around that they really meant to get in contact with.  The trick to minimizing that pile is to have a system that you use to follow up.  What you choose should do the following:

  1. Be easy.  If it isn’t easy to do, then you will never be able to maintain a habit of doing it.
  2. Be personal.  Doing a form letter or email will actually work against your goals.  Just like resumés, the mechanism must be crafted to fit the individual you want to contact.
  3. Be specific.  If you would like to set up a meeting with someone, just come right out and say so.  Neither you nor they have time to beat around the bush.
  4. Be appropriate.  Likewise, if you want to set up a meeting with someone, probably a hand-written note isn’t the mechanism you should choose.  Something more immediate, such as an email or phone call would be more appropriate for the goal.
  5. Be fun.  OK, this is a tough one sometimes.  Often this process feels very similar to cold calling, which nobody likes.  Remember, though, you are contacting them, not to sell, but to see if they would like to be friends.  Maybe you can tie in some sort of small reward for completing the task.

Whatever system you come up with, you must develop it into a habit.  The practice of following up is the only way you can turn those transient meetings into true networking gold.

So, what system do you use to follow up?