Always follow up the first day after a conference or event

For the final post in my series on attending a conference and event, I think it’s important to focus on something that most people neglect: Follow-up.

Assuming that you’ve attended the event, built relationships, and collected business cards, your final step is to “fix” the value of those new contacts by following up.

In-person events are special because of how they affect us.  Being in a new place, disrupting all of your standard routines, and spending all your time with the same people all contribute to a sense of intimacy, which is what allows attendees to quickly build bonds.  These are the same principles at work in summer camps, offsites, and vacations.

But as with summer camps, offsites, and vacations, the new bonds you build during a conference or event can be as fragile as soap bubbles.  When you get back to your regular office routine and daily life, the experience you went through seems to evaporate.

I like the analogy of old-school chemical photography.  You have to develop the film and fix the prints, otherwise any light will destroy the pictures you’ve taken.

That’s why I always schedule time on the first day after a trip or event to send follow-ups.  The goal is to set up 1:1 calls or other interactions to “fix” the relationship and keep it from evaporating into nothing.

It’s all too tempting to tell yourself things like, “I’ll just wait until Monday or Tuesday, so that people have a chance to catch up.  I don’t want to be a bother.”  That’s just your brain’s inherent laziness, trying to convince you with rationalization.  By the time a weekend has passed, you and all your new best friends will have forgotten each other.  Start following up immediately, or at worst, the next day.  Set aside time on your calendar; this isn’t optional.

You might have spent thousands of dollars on conference tickets, airfare, and travel, not to mention the value of your time.  It’s worth taking 2 hours the next day to follow up and actually consolidate potential gains.

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