Caught unprepared at a networking event? Here’s what to do.
Being caught unprepared at a networking meeting is very uncommon. People forget their business cards and brochures, they run out, they accidentally bring the wrong ones, their laptop / tablet / phone, etc., is out of battery… Though I have been doing this for decades it still happens to me too. So if it does happen to you here are some steps for you to take.
Firstly, you always use the lack of a business card or brochure as an excuse to follow up. I know you are going to think that you should follow up anyway. That is correct. However, second encounters are much more accepted when there is a good reason for the follow up. The temporary disadvantage of not having your business card or brochure is exactly the reason you can give for making the second encounter. It can be your foot in the door. But don’t make this a tactic for the future. It is better to appear to be prepared as a first impression and it is also better to make the follow up based upon something in your discussion together.
Secondly, use the resources that you have there with you – your ‘tools at hand’ so to speak. Failing all else there will be good old pen and paper around somewhere. But if you have your mobile phone with you get their number and immediately call their number so they have yours right then and there. You can also be prepared for this as well. For instance, I keep in my note on my iPhone and in Evernote messages for meeting people at events. Before the event starts I tailor the message for that specific event (where you met, etc.) and at the event I get their e-mail address and send them this message by e-mail. (If you do this always make sure to BCC yourself!) And like I said, I put these template messages in both Notes and Evernote. Each has its own strengths. First, with the Notes you can send the e-mail directly from Notes and it is very fast. But if you would rather the mail be in HTML then you can copy it from Evernote. Both work. One’s faster, the other looks better.
Also, try to find contact apps for your smart phone that capture and share contact details. This is always good to have. You might even roll with the punches and say you aren’t carrying business cards because you like to go paperless as much as possible. Most people still like to stick with the cards but others might like the environmental angle. Only say this though if you actually have such a policy and it is in your e-mail or on your website. Otherwise it might sound a bit phony.
Make sure to follow up on Skype as well. Virtually everyone has Skype these days, especially anyone who deals with other people internationally.
And then there is the social networks. If you are so inclined ask they new contact if they are as well. LinkedIn is a must and Xing if you and the other person both have it. Twitter and Facebook should only be used if these accounts are for business. Otherwise stick with the LinkedIn’s and Xing’s of the world. If you run any business groups on these platforms that fit their interests by all means invite them to join your group.
So if you do find yourself unprepared for a network session, all is not lost. Don’t try to use just your memory but rather use the tactics I have outlined above and you won’t skip a beat in your relationship building efforts.