A student at Mercer University School of Law sat through my lecture about networking last week. He listened intently, took notes and, with a skeptical look on his face, raised his hand to ask something along the lines of the following:
So, hypothetically speaking, I attend a networking reception. I am introduced to Curly, the lead attorney at the firm of Larry, Moe and Curly. We engage in a lively discussion, talk about issues facing graduating students today and I recall to him an article I recently saw on the subject. The event ends. Now what? I write him a handwritten thank you note, drop it in the mail. In my next move, I find the article in question, attach the PDF to an email, write him a note, thanking him again for spending time with me and send it off. Now I’ve thanked him twice for the same conversation. Without skipping a beat, I look up Curly on LinkedIn, write a brief note asking him to connect, thank him again for his input and hit submit. That’s three. The guy didn’t know what he was getting into meeting me! Don’t you think that is just a little bit of overkill?
My answer to this young man: Yes! No need to bombard poor Curly! Slow roll those communications – your outreach will be much better received. The advice I shared with this student:
- Strategically Time Your Follow Up. Since you promised to send the article, forego the handwritten note this time and, instead, send the email with the article attached. Your follow up will be recognized and appreciated. If you wish to, tell Curly that you will also send him a note to connect via LinkedIn.
- Personalize Your LinkedIn Invitation. In your LinkedIn connection request, be sure to personalize the note. Say something like, “Curly, Nice to meet you at the networking event yesterday. Looking forward to staying in touch. Best regards, Sylvester.”
- Schedule Another Time to Meet. If your conversation warranted it, consider asking Curly for a time to reconnect, one-on-one, in the future. Start by suggesting a date and time to get together.
- Write a Handwritten Thank You Note. Now’s your chance! Following your one-on-one, send a handwritten note.
Remember, these events can be spread out over many days, weeks, months. Encountering a new contact (or even a long-time contact) is an opportunity to plant seeds, to have touch points. There is no need to expend all of your energy on one transaction. Instead, focus on building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. You will both be better served over the long haul.