By Patricia Reich
Whether it’s inside the OCS Suite, inside an employer information session, at the Employer of the Day table, or at a Prospanica booth in Philadelphia – there’s a whole lotta’ meetin’ goin’ on this fall.
Each year, at the start of recruiting season, we emphasize the importance of the introduction: that core handshake and the smile that goes with it; the clear pronunciation of the first and last name; the careful listen for the other’s first and last name; consideration for what to say next; hitting the right note with small talk without missing the beat of the conversation; remembering to listen actively and learn what matters; then remembering to smile; then doing it all again; and again; and again.
In the fervor of the meet-and-greet, we address the introductory protocol primarily, because it comes first in the process. Second, we address the dialogue itself, because it comes next in the process, but we don’t pay as much attention to the third part – maybe because we figure we might not get through parts one and two – we tend to wait to pay attention to the follow-up protocol until – well – last.
This past week was a great networking week in my role. Between the Washington Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business Awards” and the World Trade Center Institute’s Agile Event, hosted in Baltimore at the North American headquarters of Pandora (the international jewelry company), I met scores of people – interesting, resourced, and accomplished people. I am following up immediately with exactly 10 of them: one from each event to say “thank you,” three from each event that I had meaningful conversations with, and one from each event that I didn’t get to meet, but with whom I would like to initiate a conversation.
Ten. Does that seem like a lot or a little? Let’s do the math. To send a personalized, thoughtful email, let’s budget eight minutes for each message, more if the follow-up includes an introduction to someone else, less if there is no substantive follow-up action. For 10 follow-up emails, that’s 80 minutes of keyboard time, ideally within 24 hours, but certainly within three days.
The time-math makes it real, doesn’t it? What is practical? Is it better to make fewer connections and commit to the deep-follow-up time or to work the volume by making more connections then sending expeditious LinkedIn requests, even if the follow-up is shallow?
The LinkedIn strategy is good. It connects the name and the face, it holds open the option to connect later, it hedges against the loss of the original business card, it ensures that we can locate the person in the future, even if he or she changes jobs, and it leverages the automated sharing and updating features the LinkedIn platform offers. That’s a good return on the short time it takes to send the connection requests.
More volume/less time is tempting, but when I get LinkedIn requests without any other communication, it feels more cursory to me and less like an intentional investment in the relationship. Does it to you? (It also moves the relationship into an additional media channel, which is an irritant to me, because it complicates my communication routine.)
What if you take the best of both approaches? Blending the strategy of writing meaningful messages with the strategy of securing a LinkedIn connection demonstrates your investment in the relationship and it ensures the benefits of the LinkedIn platform and community. Adding the LinkedIn action to the email follow-up will take another minute or two per contact – so now I’m up to 90 minutes; 45 minutes for each event – but the combined follow-up action really secures the opportunity to remain in contact over time and to set the foundation now for a true relationship.
We know that building true and trusted relationships is what professional, leadership networking is all about, so the next time you’re awash in networking, take a minute and consider your follow-up strategy. If you like the long-term return on your relationship investment, then block off your post-event calendar for 45 minutes and write the five emails, send the five LinkedIn requests.
Still a lot? Here’s your relief.
If you’re following up on just one conversation, then the math is even easier. It’s only nine minutes – maybe even less if you concentrate 😉