Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Follow Up Is The Key To Successful Networking - SXSW Interactive 2010

Many of the 14,000 plus people who attended the South By Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSWi) are probably feeling reminiscent of a fraternity party Jagermeister induced hang-over this morning (not that I would know that feeling first hand). Even those who did not go out for five nights of bar hoping and sponsored parties are exhausted from the information overload that the program provides.

From Friday through Tuesday technologists, marketers, gamers, entrepreneurs, authors, consultants, social media enthusiasts and others attended non-stop panel discussions and VIP parties in and around the Austin Convention Center. Meeting, greeting, and networking prevailed in the crowded hallways.

But without follow up, all the mixing and mingling is a networking failure. Missed opportunities to cultivate relationships are a waste for people who put in the effort to meet interesting people in the first place.

One of the main reasons sighted for attending a multi-day conference like SXSW is the "networking opportunities", and yet most people are horrible at the execution of creating long-lasting connections after such an event.

I had the pleasure of presenting for the third year in a row at the SXSW Interactive Conference. This year my topic was "Networking at a Multi-Day Conference" (I think the title sums up the content). One of the main tips I shared with the audience was about "follow up".

If you want to succeed in establishing a relationship with someone you met at an industry conference you must reach out to them before too much time passes away. YOU must own the follow up.

While not everyone you met will become an ongoing and mutually beneficial contact, some of the people can have a future impact on your life. To increase the chances that they will remember you down the line you have to let them know you want to keep in touch.

It takes seven to ten meaningful interactions with people before they become a part of your network, thus you cannot assume that a few drinks at an out-of-town conference will bring them to think of you again after they return home.

Here are five tips to enhance your follow up:

1. Be timely. You must make contact within one week. If you wait too long it will appear as if they were not important enough to make it to the top of your "To Do List".

2. Stand out from the crowd. Most people will never follow up, so doing this will make you more memorable. Email is fine, but also very common. Most people get hundreds of emails a day. I suggest sending a short handwritten note to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and are hopeful your paths will cross again in the future.

3. Do not send a Facebook or LinkedIn request immediately. The ways in which people use these tools differ. I do not link to anyone in these two social media communities that I have not had a meal, a beer or a cup of coffee with (meaning approximately and hour long conversation). Ask the other person if you can connect with them in these venues before sending the invite.

4. Read their blog and leave a comment. People who write blogs appreciate comments. To have a new friend from SXSW chime in on their discussion would be appreciated. If you read their blog regularly you will get a better understanding of them as a person and lead you to reasons to reach out in the future.

5. Not everyone will want to be your friend. Sometimes there is no "there there" in establishing friendships. If the other person is not reciprocating your efforts to establish an ongoing connection, do not be offended.... just move on. Not everyone will become part of our networks.

CHALLENGE.... Before this Friday reach out to five people you met this week at SXSW Interactive, by email or handwritten note, and tell them why you enjoyed meeting them. Avoid having to look back in six months and realize that you killed your networking success by neglecting to follow up.

Have A Great Day.


Update: As I sat down THIS MORNING to write hand-written notes to several people I met at SXSW, I found a massive sea change this year in what information people put on their business cards. A HUGE majority of cards only had email addresses, no physical address.

Interesting. I have never had this many cards without contact info. In these cases I will send emails to people.

However, this brings up a point about business cards and networking. The point is that you should make it AS EASY AS POSSIBLE for the other person to reach out to you. By deleting all aspects of the physical world are we falling deeper into the digital world? Is there a difference? Does cutting off the possibility of receiving a handwritten note make it all more mechanical?

I would have liked to have made a special effort with some of these people, as they were uniquely interesting. Now I can only send an email. I feel I am cheating them by not showing them they stood out from the crowd.

Oh well.


Mindy Klement said...

Hi Thom -

I missed your talk at SXSW, so thanks for the blog post with the tips. Regarding your Update, with so many people working remotely from home, I think it's more of a privacy/safety issue to not have a physical address on business cards. That's my personal reason for not doing so.

Hope to see you around Austin soon!
Mindy Klement

Joseph said...

Hi Thom,

In the spirit of this post, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed our brief chat about Gary Vee "dialing it down" before the Marketing Goes Social Panel.


Kiratiana said...

Hi Thom,

We sat next to each other in promotion core conversation. I want to say that I am VERY happy that I met you. Never again will I lose networking opportunities. I will agree, the only people putting addresses on cards now are those with jobs in large companies. You have convinced me to put my address back on my card. I want to receive nice cards too!

JibberJobber Guy said...

I agree with Mindy - I would never put my home office addy on my business card (I don't even put my phone numbers on my business card)... for the first year or so all I had was my home office address - now I have a PO Box, but there is no reason to put that on there.

Kathy said...

In response to posts, I have an issued with the scams and huge problems with identity theft going on, with job scams and people stealing information from resumes posted online.

Barbara Safani (Career just published a lengthy blog post "How to Spot a Job Scam, about ID theft resulting from posting resumes online with personal contact info. She included a link to, where Susan Joyce addresses this issue in detail as well ("Job Search Scam Avoidance Guide").

On my business card, I only put my email address, city, state and phone number.

Not until I have secured a signed contract with a client do I give out my actual mailing address. To me, it's just sound cautionary security practice. (I've been a victim of ID theft several times...not fun.)


~Kathy Bitschenauer

Brigitte said...

Here is another thought on the business cards that do not bear a physical address.

Yes, we may be losing the address, but look at all we gained. Assuming the business card is an invitation to pursue the visit, nowadays most of us will look up on line the person and company any way. So as long as the person's business card gives me enough information to identify them beyond doubt in the virtual worlds of Google search, Web Site, Blogging, LinkedIn, etc., I am in happy land!

Stating the obvious: Being able to dive into the virtual world as part of the "I am getting to know you" dance is both an inconvenience and a treat; as my business involves gaining a deep understanding of people and their company culture, I am obviously not looking primarily for efficiencies. When it takes a phone call to find out the exact physical address of the person I met, I welcome the opportunity to get a first hand experience of their organization's culture: it is like waiting at the reception desk and leveraging the experience to absorb myself in a company culture, except that now I have a virtual hall I can also visit on my own terms!

The little piece of cardboard and ink that forms the business card may represent a snapshot of cultural identity, an accessory of the professional and their organization, like a tiny condiment in a meal. However a big piece of the story the company has out there, to engages me further, has now been shifted and augmented on line. At this juncture, I venture to say that the traditionally looking business card that bears a physical address may indicate a past culture; the succinct, fresh looking business card that proudly invites to an on-line world - opens up a different story.