Staying Connected: Comparing Professional Events and Your Last Birthday

By: Luke Mohame, @72Luke

Students and young professionals face many challenges. I witnessed one such challenge this past week at the Robert Morris University Sport Management student conference. Over 150 students attended the event, each eager to make their mark and break into the industry.  While I was impressed with each student I interacted with, a big challenge for these students still remains. What is the appropriate way to follow up after a conference?

The goal of the follow up is often to show that person that you appreciate them and that you value your relationship.  That person may serve as a mentor, provide a future job opportunity, or aid your life in other ways both personally and professionally.  Fortunately, this presentation of endearment is not much different than your last birthday.

Think back to your last birthday.  You probably had dozens of people posting on your social media accounts, texting you, calling you, and sending you gifts.  It was a great day!  This spurt of appreciation was likely remarkably different than the appreciation you saw the day before and the day after your birthday.

I talked to my good friend, Ashley about her last birthday. Ashley is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for the University of South Florida.  She is a popular person and on her last birthday had a lot of people showing her how much they appreciate her and valued their relationship.  How did her friends communicate this?

53 posted to her Facebook
18 texted her
11 sent a card
10 called
3 did something unique

So what does a birthday have to do with following up after a conference?  I talked to Murray Cohn, the NBA Vice President Team Ticket Sales.  Murray has helped hundreds of aspiring professionals build their careers.  In his role, he often attends conferences and events, meets aspiring professionals, and subsequently receives a lot of follow up messages afterwards.

At the 2014 Robert Morris University student conference, 157 students received his contact information.  Those who utilized his contact information chose the following methods for showing how much they appreciate him and valued their relationship.

77 emailed him
40 requested him on LinkedIn
15 sent a card
5 arranged a phone call
2 did something unique

See a pattern? 

The methods that take more effort are used by fewer people.  However, these methods do a better job of showing how much you appreciate that person and value your relationship.

Beyond birthdays and conferences, both Ashley and Murray agreed that those they remember most or those who are closest to them, will connect through multiple channels and stay in touch throughout the year.  If you wanted to be Ashley’s best friend you would not send her a gift on her birthday and then not speak for the next 364 days.  Similarly, if you want to be remembered after a conference, sending an email the following day and not connecting until next year’s conference is not a great way to be remembered.

As an aside, all of this assumes that you are a sincere person. Showering someone with gifts or frequent communication throughout the year will not get you anywhere if your interactions are not genuine.

So, how can you be remembered and separate yourself after a conference?  Make the extra effort and follow up through multiple channels.  Send an email, connect on LinkedIn, send a card, call the person, and show them that you really listened and really care.  Give that person specific examples on how they made an impact on you.  Do all of those things – but do not stop there, stay in touch with that person throughout the year.

Think of how you would communicate with your best friend; your friendship extends well beyond annual birthday wishes.  Likewise, when meeting a new connection at a conference, make it your goal to extend your relationship beyond that event.  That relationship could result in a lifetime mentor, a future career opportunity, or maybe even your new best friend.

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