6 Things You Should Do After Networking
There are two types of authors: those who leave a publishing conference exhausted and those who charge home, energised by the whole experience. No matter what category you fall into, however, you still need to tackle one final task in the days following a buzzing conference if you want to maximise your success.
Creating a big splash at an event is fantastic but it means little if you don’t connect quickly with your new acquaintances. If you don’t follow up while you’re fresh in their minds, those leads can run cold and forget you.
The longer you leave it, the worse it gets, so it’s best to strike as soon as you can, preferably making contact in multiple places. In business, they call this idea the seven touches of marketing – the idea that someone has to see a product or brand seven times on average before they recognise and trust it enough to buy. Only, in this case, they’re not buying a product; they’re buying into you.
So how do you make multiple “touches” to be remembered without seeming overly eager? The key is to be subtle and proceed with baby steps. This blog post will explore six things you can do to get started that strike the perfect balance.
1. THANK FELLOW ATTENDEES AND ORGANISERS
Every event these days comes with a Facebook Page or hashtag where attendees can discuss everything from speakers to travel arrangements to the best places to grab lunch. However, while these pages are hives of activity before and during the event, only a fraction of commenters use them to their fullest potential afterwards. This is a shame because it’s the easiest place to begin tying together your online and offline personas and converting real-world contacts into online friends.
A good way to get on your fellow attendees’ radars is to start by writing a simple post thanking everyone for their generosity. Be sure to compliment the organisers for putting on such an interesting line-up but also tag in a number of other attendees whose company you enjoyed. Usually, you’ll find that reaching out in this way will lead to friend requests from those who recognise you from your post, and sometimes offers to meet up elsewhere. And with your profiles intertwined, you’ll be more likely to pay attention to each other in the future.
2. SHARE YOUR SELFIES
Lots of conference visitors take selfies with influencers and authors they admire during large events. Many post these on the internet as they happen, documenting their day for friends who aren’t at the event. However, I would suggest holding back your snaps until a day or two after everyone has returned home. That way, you can strategically post them and tag your new friends in your posts.
Psychologically, doing so extends the event in their mind, magnifying their perception of the time they spent with you. Rather than seeing you in person and then glossing over a post on their phone moments later, it reminds them that you exist at a time when they’re not being bombarded with other voices.
A bonus of waiting is that your new contacts will also be more likely to have good internet access because they will be at home, not using patchy conference WiFi. As a result, they would be in a better position to accept friend requests and share posts that would otherwise be missed when they only had access via their phone.
3. PROCESS BUSINESS CARDS
Business cards contain valuable information but not always enough to remind you who their owners are and what you discussed. I’ve made the mistake of waiting days to return to a wad of cards after a conference only to discover that I couldn’t remember why I owned some, and I missed opportunities as a result.
Not every author writes full-time so some end up handing you a card that seemingly belongs to someone else entirely. “Sebastian Drinkwater” who said he wrote fantasy at the bar might be down as Martin Bradshaw. Why Martin? Well, he did mention briefly that he was an accountant but used the same email for author correspondence. You’ve just forgotten that Sebastian Drinkwater was his pen name.
Distributors, editors, agents and publishers can be equally confusing. They sometimes hand you their boss’s card if they don’t have their own, or if they’ve run out. If you notice when this happens, asking them to write their name on the card can help to avoid confusion. However, that doesn’t always happen.
Little tripwires like this have led me to tackle stacks of business cards as soon as possible. I suggest you do the same. To stay organised, create a spreadsheet with a row for each new contact, documenting their information, plus extra notes on how you met and what you discussed. That way, you can ditch the cards in favour of a more comprehensive and searchable record which you can use to refresh your memory if you find that your attending the same event as them again in the future.
4. FOLLOW UP ON OPPORTUNITIES
When authors gather with other industry professionals, inevitably ideas are born. Distributors talk about new expansion plans and hint that they might need some books to use as Guinea pigs. Artists consider co-creating picture books with talented children’s authors. Marketers suggest turning non-fiction books into courses that can be sold at a much higher ticket price. On the whole, most of these ideas vanish the moment the conference ends. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Reaching out online to people you connected with at a conference is a good general practice regardless of whether you’ve planned an immediate project. If an opportunity of idea has been forged, even better! Taking action before your contact’s passion cools is a sure-fire way to turn ideas into action. Being proactive is key, and it sets you apart from the vast majority of networkers because, all too often, they fail to follow up quickly enough to make progress happen. A quick email, tweet or direct message is all it takes to move a conversation from a spit-balling session with a knowledgeable stranger to a concrete plan.
5. SUPPORT YOUR NEW ALLIES
The beauty of the publishing industry is that your fellow authors aren’t your competition. They can be, if you close yourself off, but the collaborative nature of our work means you can choose to make them more like colleagues. And the more cheerleading you dish out, the more social karma you’ll bank, especially if you’ve met each other in real life.
Knowing these authors intimately will make you want to see them do well – and vice versa. Offer to help your conference allies when they launch their next book by sharing their posts on social media or even initiating newsletter swaps. In many cases, they will reciprocate. And small gestures will turn into larger ones over time as you learn to trust the quality of one another’s work.
6. PLAN REUNIONS
If the event didn’t give you enough time to finish conversations then a reunion is a good solution. This can be either one-on-one or as a small group. Some authors set up monthly clubs so conference buddies can stay in touch, rather than waiting another year. Others book trips abroad or hiking days so they can spend more time talking shop with their closest industry buddies.
Alternatively, you could replicate the in-person experience by using a video-chat service like Skype or Zoom. Both services work well because they allow you to elaborate on ideas more emotively on camera than in an email. They have recording capabilities too, so you can save conversations instead of having to pause to take notes.
Finally, you could organise a same-time-same-place reunion at the conference the following year. Confirming you’re attending in advance can persuade others to go again and spark a community atmosphere. That way, you can walk into a room that already contains friends, which will make it seem like you know everyone. And that’s a good way to impress future contacts.
Doing all six of the steps outlined in this post in the days or weeks following a conference will solidify your position as a strong contact after meeting new industry professionals. Not only that, given time, they can can also help you to nurture real friendships and reinforce your likelihood of standing the test of time in this ever-changing publishing world.
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