As the famous 1973 study by Stanford Professor Granovetter found, the Strength of Weak Ties is monumentally important in our professional lives as they offer access to networks that even our closest friends don’t.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to build out those acquaintances in a seemingly organic but nonetheless deliberate manner. Here are two ways to bring your networking relationships one step further.
Stay in Touch via Email
The general rule of a post-networking email is to open with similarities and close with how you can help them. This applies to the actual conversation you have face-to-face, as well as any follow-up engagements you have.
- The sooner the better. I usually send up follow-up emails the next morning to guarantee that they’ll remember me.
- General: Great to meet you at the Executive Networking Event last night [be specific about where you met]
- Commonality: Texas girls on the West Coast [be specific about what you had in common]
During the networking event: When I know I’m going to a particularly large event where most people will be having the same, repetitive conversations, I come up with one icebreaker question that will distinguish me and make my conversations more memorable. Ones that have worked in the past are, “What’s one thing you wish you had known in your early 20s?” or, “Who was the most interesting person you’ve met at a networking event?”
Email after the event: Mention the question you asked and ask how you can further the answer they gave you. If they gave you a particularly interesting answer, invite them out for coffee to continue the discussion!
During the networking event: Mention other contacts you have in their industry and ask them if they have any interest in meeting them.
Email after the event: Confirm with them that this is the correct email to send an introduction to. Then ask if you can set up a coffee with the three of you to get the introduction on the way.
During the networking event: I like to jot little notes on the back of each business card I receive so that I remember specifically what we talked about to allow for easier follow-up.
Email after the event: Send them an interesting news article about the topic you discussed. Ask them what sources they get their industry news from, or any sites they like in particular. If you can keep the conversation going for two to three emails, then invite them to coffee or lunch.
During the networking event: If the people you met are new in the city, industry, or just enjoy going to networking events, these are the easiest people to keep up with!
Email after the event: Forward them invitations to other events. Send them suggestions for restaurants, or your favorite coffee shop. Offer to help them co-host events. At the end of these emails, go as far to remind them what your reason is for wanting to build out a network, since they likely meet lots of new people themselves.
For particularly influential individuals: If I’m attending a panel or a conference, there are clearly key individuals I would like to stay in contact with. Oftentimes it’s difficult to determine how I can help someone who is more professionally advanced than I am. However, in these situations, I ask them if I can write an article or blog post about them for my own blog, my company blog, or any other publications I contribute to. This is a good way of getting one-on-one time with them that can hopefully segue into other conversations. You can also invite them to speak at the next event you’re planning. This is why it’s important to be involved in associations that host events, such as Local Levo, or your university’s local alumni chapter.
Thank them for their time, and nicely tell them you’re trying to work out your calendar, so you’d love it if they can let you know their availability within the next few weeks. People are more likely to respond if you put a time crunch on them!
Better Organize Your Contacts
An email isn’t the only way to keep tabs on your network. If you’re like me, you have so many contacts in your Gmail that sometimes you forget who’s emailing you. With Rapportive, your Gmail side panel now shows your contact’s name, location, occupation, and all other information it pulls off their social networking profiles.