Episode 120: February 9, 2010
by Stever Robbins
Conferences! I just love conferences! It’s my chance to emerge from my lair, squint at the sudden sunlight, and connect and bond with other members of my species! What could be better?
As long-time readers know, I like to be in tip-top shape when I emerge from my cave. I want to be alpha male, and have the other males cower in despair at my commanding presence. That’s why I work out with trainer Tyler Duckworth. When he’s not training me, Tyler embarrasses himself publicly on reality TV shows like MTV’s Real World or Gauntlet III. For the next six weeks, Tyler’s attending the ultimate reality TV show: he’s a correspondent to the Vancouver Olympics. He created a website and that—plus mud-wrestling nearly naked in front of 140 million people—got him the gig. Before leaving for his fabulous LA launch party, he cried in despair at the prospect of coming back with dozens of new internationally famous friends, wanting to know how to ensure they all stay friends.
I’m not in LA. I’m not surrounded by the most accomplished athletes in the world. I’m not a global correspondent for fabulous events. I’m in my basement office, the one I fondly refer to as, “the dark abyss of ultimate despair.” I’m all alone. And he expects me to help him with his problems? Of course I will. I am that magnanimous. Besides, otherwise, he’ll make me do 500 reps of some awful Pilates exercise.
Business Cards are the Starting Point
When you travel to a conference, or to the Vancouver Olympics, you meet lots of people and get their contact info. Check out my article on keeping track of business cards for tips on keeping contact info organized and entering it into your address book. That’s only the starting point, however. Now, you have to turn those business cards into relationships.
If you didn’t schedule a couple of catch-up days after your conference, remember this Quick and Dirty Tip for next time: any time you schedule a conference, also schedule at least one full day afterwards to follow up with the new contacts you make.
Reach Out and Remind Contacts Who You Are
You made an impression. After all, who could forget that zany stunt with the ice sculpture, kielbasa, and Marilyn Monroe mask, right in the middle of the hotel lobby? Now is the time to make that impression stick, before they reach their therapist and start processing the encounter.
They also came back with a gazillion business cards. They feel overwhelmed trying to cope, so your goal is to make it easy for them to bring you into their life. Got that? This follow-up is about making their life easier.
Send a Follow-Up Email
Send them a “Nice to meet you” email. In that email, remind them who you are and what you talked about. Give them your contact information so they can fill in your entry in their address book. Since electronic address books can include peoples’ pictures, include a small picture. Most people suck at remembering names, but are too embarrassed to admit it. You’re making their life easier by help them reconnect your name and your face. You’re also subtly assuring them that despite your behavior, you really look nothing like last week’s feature from America’s Most Wanted.
Most contact manager programs will let you create an entry for yourself, and then export it as a special file with your address book entry in it, called a vCard. Attach your vCard to the message so they can enter all your information into their address book with a single click. You’re making their life easier, already.
If you promised to send them any information, now’s the time to include it. Otherwise, include something you know will help as they try to dig their way out from their conference backlog. Like… let me think for a moment… a link to this episode.
Schedule Your Next Contact Now
So far, we’ve created a flurry of activity right after the conference. Everyone’s emailing everyone else, and you can all contact each other. Your “Nice to meet you” email isn’t enough. You need to solidify the relationship. Pick a date for a phone call or, if possible, an in-person meeting. In your message, suggest you follow up then. Choose a date 2-6 weeks in the future, so they’ve had a chance to relax back into their routine. Make it easy for them to respond with a quick yes or no.
Once the meeting is in your calendar, you can be sure you’ll follow up.
Here’s how Melvin’s letter sounded, writing a new friend from a recent conference: “Dear Chris, This is Melvin. We met at the conference, standing by the cheese cubes. I really appreciated your thoughtful deodorant recommendation. I’ve attached my vCard and picture so you have all my information. Let’s catch up by phone on April 31 at 3 p.m. If that doesn’t work, name your own time. I don’t have many friends, so my schedule is open.” Once the meeting is in your calendar, you can move on to the next contact.
Tyler called while I was typing this episode. The OlympicsOrBust.com launch party was apparently fabulous beyond his wildest dreams. He met lots of amazing people. And if he reads this article, he’ll know what to do next: send a follow-up email reminding people who he is, attach his contact information and a small picture that shows off his pecs, and immediately schedule a follow-up meeting to deepen the friendship.
This is Stever Robbins. Sign up for my newsletter and find links to Tyler’s Olympics site and the business cards episode at http://GetitDone.quickanddirtytips.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!