You’ve collected some new contacts at a networking event — congrats! Now what? After the name tags come off, it can be confusing on how or when to build relationships with the people that you’ve met.

After organizing networking mixers with Teach + Learn Networking for almost two years, I’ve learned that people run into trouble following up after events. They forget to send emails or don’t have time, and sometimes they’re even afraid of rejection. Many of us let business cards get crunched up in the bottoms of purses or tossed on desks, never to be touched again.

You can and should feel comfortable following up with people that excite you. After all, if someone gives you a card, it’s an invitation to speak more with them. Don’t let any more time pass — go grab that stack of business cards, open your email and LinkedIn, and let’s start following up.

(Check the bottom of this article for a link to the full photo album from the event featured here, Networking Sucks, produced by Teach + Learn Networking at The Paul Hotel in NYC)

1. Make the first move

Even someone who seems 110% interested in talking more with you after an event might not send an email (following up can be hard, remember?) Don’t take it personal, just take matters into your own hands.

Here’s a simple rule to remember: if you get a card, send an email within 24 hours of it being placed in your hand (except if someone weird gave you it to you, duh.) Get in contact ASAP, even if you don’t think there’s potential for further conversation. It doesn’t hurt and you don’t know where it could lead as you grow your network.

Tyler from Cynk Up explains the importance of shaking the right hands at networking events. Photo courtesy of John Demato

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Rehashing a convo point and offering some general niceties are always a safe way to go. Your follow-up could look something like this:

“Hey ______, It was great to meet you last night at ________. I really enjoyed our conversation about ___________ and look forward to connecting with you again soon.”

See? That’s easy. This is also a perfect time to make a LinkedIn connection request (adding Rapportive to your Gmail can help you do this.)

The point here is to be the first one to extend your hand, even if it’s only to communicate a wave.

2. Turn business cards into business meetings

You might have exchanged cards with someone that you’d like to meet up with for one-on-one time. Great! Getting together with the people you meet at networking events is the next step in building a relationship.

Since we know that following up can be difficult for some folks, don’t wait for coffee or drink invitations to roll in. You guessed it — you have to make the date yourself. How can you follow up and secure the next meeting?

Cards exchanged over drinks at “Networking Sucks”, hosted by Teach + Learn Networking at The Paul Hotel NYC. Photo courtesy of John Demato

The best way to ask someone to get together for a coffee or drink is to mention the reason why you want to meet and some potential times and dates.

What could that look like?

“Hey Sylvia, It was great to meet you last night at that networking event. I’d really like to continue our conversation on how we can cross-promote to each other’s mailing lists. Would you be able to meet for a coffee or drink either next Wednesday or Thursday afternoon to talk more about it?”

That way, the fussing over schedules is minimized and everyone knows why they’re showing up to Starbucks. If you’re brand new to this networking game, go get coffee with as many people as you can — you’ll learn a ton. But you have to be the one to set the date up!

3. Organize an outing to the next event

Angelica makes plans for the next girl’s night. Photo courtesy of John Demato

Sometimes getting a coffee or a drink might feel too personal, too soon. Understandable. Opt for some group fun instead.

Play social director for the night and invite a group of new and old contacts to visit a similar event. You’ll be able to catch up with several people while connecting them to each other at the same time. Use Eventbrite and Meetup to find an outing and blast out an invite (I usually BCC all invitees and put my email on the main receive line to avoid mailbox clogging reply-all nightmares.)

A group text or email could sound like:

“Hey everyone! I thought we had so much fun last week at that networking event and we should do it again. I’ll be checking out this Meetup group next Thursday at 7pm and would love for you to join. Let me know if you decide to RSVP and hope to see you there!”

Sometimes I even offer to do everyone’s online RSVPs to make it easy for the group. Next thing you know, you’ll have a bunch of people asking you to organize another outing (FYI: that’s a powerful position to be in.) And is there anything better than all your friends becoming friends with each other?

If you get a card, use it! Photo courtesy of John Demato

Whatever you do, just follow up with sincerity and keep building better business relationships.

If you liked this article, please click the ❤ below. Better yet, share this article with that friend that needs help following up.


Thanks to John Demato for snapping these pics, 
to The Paul Hotel NYC for sharing their space with us, 
to CynkUp, Down to Dash, Navigine, and Fashionably Yours for sponsoring this event, 
and to everyone that’s part of Teach + Learn Networking, an in-person and online community of new and emerging business owners, 
founded by me, Sam Popp.

You can learn more about us at www.TandLNetworking.com and local folks can join our New Jersey and New York City Meetups for up to date news on our events.

Networking — and following up — doesn’t have to suck. Photo courtesy of John Demato
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