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.