People attend business conferences and events all the time with the hopes to make meaningful connections. The meetings business is a huge industry and even through the rough economic years and the increase in online options, there is a plethora of face-to-face gatherings.
A main reason people attend business events is for the "networking opportunities", however once they get there they stink at making meaningful connections.
Worse is when people make a contact at an event they rarely follow up. Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.... it makes them someone you met once. There is a huge difference between having a brief chat at a convention and establishing a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.
In today's fast-paced and impersonal culture a quickly sent LinkedIn request is often mistaken for an effort to add people to a network. A social media link is not the same as a friendship that is established through shared experiences.
To create a real relationship you must have ongoing conversations. If you want to go beyond just trading information you must "own the follow up". Meetings are great tools to bring people together, but some conferences invest to create a culture that is more than a few keynotes, breakouts, and meals. When you are part of something bigger than an "event" you are more excited to follow up with people when you get home.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Send a handwritten note. Yes, email is easier and text is concise. But these communication methods are often part of the ongoing noise that many try to filter out all day. Many professionals get over 150 emails everyday. Since so few people send these types of notes they really do stand out.
2. Schedule lunch or another activity. The sooner you get together again the higher the odds you will establish a real friendship. While this works best if you live in the same area, too few people ever take this step even when they work in the same building. Humans are experiential beings, so when you share experiences you build bonds.
3. Have a "tele-coffee". My friend Neen James coined this phrase.... it is where you make coffee in your office, they make coffee in their office across the country (or across the world) and then you have a scheduled conversation via phone or Skype. This is a great way to have a memorable conversation with those who live far away.
Don't delay in planning for the follow up after a conference (yes, if you want success you need a plan). The more time that passes they less likely you will ever have any other contact with the people you meet at business events.
What do you do to cultivate the connections you make?
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com