Giving your elevator speech should of course include all the essentials – name, role and expertise, interests – but don't forget to throw in an interesting curve ball that will make your particular audience remember you. Are you speaking to someone who's based in Southeast Asia? If you have a passion for scuba diving and got your advanced dive license in Thailand – share that tidbit with your new connection. You and I both know is it's more likely she will later recall "the woman who scuba dives in Thailand" than "the woman from the product sales division." But better yet, it could help her remember you as "the scuba diver from product sales." Are you speaking with a chemistry educator? Mention your company's leadership role in developing a local science festival. Not only do you have an opportunity to connect on a personal level by sharing interests, but your new contact gets a better sense of who you are and whom you represent.
Once you've exchanged cards, feel free to jot down a word or two on their card to proactively capture a follow-up action. Thank each person for their time, their insights and maybe even their jokes or stories. In closing, make it clear what's next; you'll call to set a date, develop a program, pursue a partnership, or just keep the door open.
5. Follow-Up Effectively
Following up with new contacts is critical if you want to really lock in your new connections. When drafting up your note, mention your meeting and something interesting you remember learning during the conversation. Find a way to add value to your note by attaching an article or website link that might be useful to the other person. However, be careful not to send anything that feels like a "hard sell." End the note using the same steps you used to close your elevator speech – stating you hope to keep in touch with the person and will write again soon to share business insights or synergies.
It's always great to meet new people, but be careful not to overlook the wonderful network of current and former colleagues that you've already constructed. Keep in touch with them. Thanks to sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, this should be easy. No excuses, give it all you've got.
Here's a good first step: add me to your network. Find me on Twitter @KatieChemist and let's grow our networks together.
(1) Special thanks to Jody Kocsis and Amber Hinkle for introducing me to Speed Networking at the "Women in Industry" Breakfast at the ACS National Meeting (2007) and further introducing me to SPICE in (2008). SPICE was a project of the national Women Chemists Committee (WCC) of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Catherine T. "Katie" Hunt, Ph.D., is director, Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies, at The Dow Chemical Company and 2007 President of the American Chemical Society. Her bimonthly column appears exclusively on ChemicalProcessing.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieChemist.