The Art of the Follow-up: How to Build Relationships From Conferences

building relationships from conferences

It might seem like conferences are an ideal place to do business, with so many people in attendance and the high potential for interpersonal interaction. But the reality is, very few deals or sales actually happen because of the lack of opportunity to build relationships from conferences. Everyone has a tight agenda when attending an event, so the window of opportunity is much smaller than it would seem. Attendees typically only have short interactions with each other, or an hour or two at the after-party.

So how can you make the most out of the conferences you attend? The real trick to that lies in the follow-up immediately after the conference.

While that sounds straightforward, it’s not what typically happens. Most people go to events, shake hands, collect business cards, and follow up with contacts without making any connection, just hoping for some sort of transaction in the near future.

Tactics like that have a selfish quality to them that rarely pay off. People understand pretty quickly whether you’ve made a genuine connection or are just talking to them because the interaction benefits you in some way.

A better approach is to go narrow and deep when networking at conferences. Doing so involves developing deeper relationships with a smaller number of people and playing the long game. If you can pull that off, then the event follow-up email after the conference practically writes itself and almost guarantees some sort of mutual benefit, and better lead scoring for effective MQLs.

Here’s an in-depth look at how to build relationships from conferences that are real and long-lasting.

Capitalize on the Limited Time You Have

Conferences go by in the blink of an eye. Part of their speedy nature is that the agenda is usually jam-packed with speakers, breakout events, and meals.

If you want to make the most of the limited time you have, you have to know your goal going into the conference. Again, the whole idea is to make connections to follow up on, but you have to get more granular than that. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s the greatest outcome from attending this conference?
  • What people do I need to meet to achieve that outcome?
  • What companies do they work for?
  • Where in the schedule could I possibly connect with them?
  • What value can I bring them?
  • What do we have in common?

Once you know all that, your schedule practically writes itself. Naturally, you want to listen to the key speakers, but you can request to sit at certain people’s tables or at the very least, scope out where the interesting people you want to meet will be sitting so you can approach them between sessions.

It’s not a bad idea to rehearse an elevator pitch or synopsis of what you do or what you’re hoping to achieve from the conference to make that interaction as natural as possible. Even just having a few bullet points in mind goes a long way.

If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, consider making it a point to know who the organizers are and reach out via email beforehand, or approach them at the event.

Tell them you’re new to the conference or city, and potentially share your goal for the event. Then ask them who you should be networking with or who might be interesting to talk to. That way, you have the opportunity to either get introduced by the organizer, or, at the very least, you can say “so and so” said we should meet. That social credibility can be all it takes to break the ice. You can also leverage this introduction again in your follow-up email.

If you have the time and resources, it’s also worth considering taking on a volunteer role or working at the event to gain unfettered access to everyone. The quickest way to meet more people or build your email list is to be part of the conference.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Most conferences have an app that organizes the event and tells you what you need to know. Download it to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time, participate in event surveys, or play conference games. Figure out who’s attending the conference. Many times an event app will have pictures of people so you can start to familiarize yourself with the faces of those you’d like to meet.

You could take it a step further with a data enrichment tool such as VoilaNorbert that can give you attendees’ work emails and links to any social media profiles they might have. Then you can do a little research prior to the conference so you’ve got potential talking points for your first encounter, and to use in your follow-up email after the conference.

It’s also worth figuring out which hashtags are being used for the conference so you can find interesting people to connect with, other events, or after-parties.

Recommended Read: 5 ways to keep attendees engaged post-event using an event app

Ask Great Questions

So you’ve got your plan – now it’s time to execute. If you want your follow-up emails to get opened and really resonate, then you’ve got to make some serious connections. A quick win here is to ask great questions to get people talking about themselves.

People love to talk about themselves. According to a study in Scientific American, people talk about themselves because it feels good – it lights up the same area of the brain that also lights up when taking drugs or eating great food. To put it plainly, self-disclosure is profoundly gratifying and provides a neurological buzz.

Having a great versus a just plain good conversation is tricky, though. Weather chats aren’t going to cut it here. You’ve got to ask interesting and specific questions instead of broad ones. A bad question would be:

“What makes you happy?”

A great alternative question could be:

“What do you do to unwind after a long day?”

The second question isn’t so loaded and it’s easier to recall since the person likely unwinds in very similar ways each day. The question is also more innocent, so they’re not as likely to be on guard and will share personal details about themselves. It’s in those personal stories or details they share that you can likely find a common connection that can take it from a simple interaction to a deeper relationship.

Prioritize the Follow-up

Now that you’ve gotten the most out of the conference, you’ve got to capitalize on your hard work. You know who you want to reach out to. You likely have a connection or mutual interest to highlight. Now all you have to do is craft an email to leverage your event connections and make your follow-up personal.

The follow-up is crucial. A recent study discovered that, on average, it takes five attempts to close a sale. Yet 70% of salespeople give up entirely after they don’t receive a reply to their first email.

To maximize the effectiveness of your email and follow-up cadence, try using an email automation tool like Mailshake. Mailshake has built-in templates for these types of follow-ups, and will give suggestions on how to make your email better as you write it. On top of that, once you hit ‘send’, it will track things like email opens, link clicks, and replies.

From there, you can set up an email cadence to go out on autopilot to check in at key intervals or share great content with your new connection.

Building relationships from conferences or closing a sale takes work. With regular follow-ups, you can inch closer to your goal and keep that new relationship from fizzling out.

*This post has been written by guest blogger, Levi Olmstead, Head of Community and SEO at G2 Crowd. G2 Crowd is the leading website for online business software and service reviews, where EventMobi ranks as a High Performer on the Summer 2018 Mobile Event Apps Report.