3.1 Preparation and follow-up
It will be no surprise that, as with many things in life, preparation and follow-up is often the key to success. If you are about to attend an event, say a conference, a work meeting or even a social gathering, it’s worth spending some time anticipating who will be there and whether you feel that they might be a useful contact for you. This might be a senior manager from your organisation or, perhaps, a conference speaker that you have read about who has interesting views or experience. Alternatively, it might simply be someone from your own organisation, or another similar business, able to offer you a different perspective on your sector and opportunities within it. Think this through first, and work out a strategy, to ensure that you use your time effectively when at the event itself. This might possibly involve contacting such people beforehand in order to set up a meeting.
While at the event, you should also leave time for chance encounters; after all, you can’t prepare for everything! Make sure that you attend meals and social events, if these are included, so that you can meet new people. Try not to spend all your time with colleagues or people that you know well – tempting though this might be – and make sure that you leave space for just chatting and seeing where the conversation goes.
When you meet new people and strike up a relationship, remember to leave them your contact details and to record theirs so that you can follow them up later. If you promise to get in touch afterwards, then make sure that you keep your pledge. It can be very wasteful of time and effort, and destructive of a fledgling relationship, not to keep in touch if you have agreed to do so!
Remember also to make some notes on anything that you pick up during these conversations that you think might be useful either immediately or in the future. You should also think carefully about where you are going to store this information – in a file or on your PC, for example – so that you can easily access it later.