How do you feel when a networking event is completed? Most walk away motivated and refreshed. Unfortunately, not enough people take the time to follow up with their contacts. They close the book on networking events, when really, they should be turning to the next page.

Following up is just as important as attending networking events. We’ll give you a few pointers on how to make these initial conversations less awkward and more genuine.

Start by Sending an Email

Emails are fast and easy to send. They give you an opportunity to connect with someone without interrupting their day.

The initial email can be friendly and lighthearted, saying something like, “I really enjoyed meeting you at the conference on Saturday!” If you remember something specific from the conversation, add that in there as well. People love when others listen.

If you want a follow up meeting, ask for that by saying, “I’d love to continue the conversation. What does your schedule look like next Tuesday or Wednesday?”

Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the largest professional network, so it makes sense to follow up with potential leads on the social channel. You can keep in contact, congratulate them on milestones and wish them happy birthdays. This develops a stronger rapport and also keeps your name relevant.

In fact, I recommend remembering small details about your contacts because it goes a long way in establishing a connection. Recognizing birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, the loss of family members, etc. shows that you care about the person beyond making a sale.

Help Others without Expectations

This networking is a lot of work! But, relationships are always work. To grow positive relationships, find ways to help others. Can you pass someone’s resume on to your hiring department? Can you connect a potential lead with a service they were looking for?

By helping out others, you establish a positive reputation. In return, people will be happy to return the favor. This is a great way to get word-of-mouth referrals that bring new business your way.

Schedule a Meeting

The goal of following up is to keep the ball moving forward. Sending a few emails back and forth is fine, but ultimately, you want to have a meeting with this person. Be clear about your hopes to set up a meeting whether it’s in person, over the phone or through videoconferencing.

When arranging a meeting, give your contact specific times and dates to choose from. This helps them make a decision and be accountable for showing up on time. Not everyone will be ready to have a meeting, and that’s okay. Stay in contact, but don’t force anything.

Networking is a job in itself. But, it’s necessary to continue growing your business and generating new leads. After attending your events, take the time to follow up with contacts and develop deeper connections with them. A few emails, direct messages and well wishes go a long way – and they cost nothing.