Nine out of ten people don’t follow-up

Speaking at a networking event the other day, I did a quick straw poll to test out one of my theories about why so many people find such events a pointless exercise despite feeling compelled to go along. Not surprisingly, out of a group of nearly 40 people, only 2 claimed to have a systematic approach to following up after the meeting.


So, slapped wrist number 1: Nearly a fortnight ago, I was not only late for a business lunch, but also failed to write and thank the generous person who bought me it. This was outrageous – completely out of character for me, but evidence that I am not pretending that I get it right all the time.

And, slapped wrist number 2: Three weeks ago, I was invited to attend another breakfast meeting and to speak about my work. All went well, though there was perhaps a slight mismatch for one individual who seemed to think I was going to be pitching for work rather than talking about the underlying nature of the work I do. However, I have the list of delegates on my desk and I haven’t followed up.

Learning – I seem to have a little pattern emerging here… When something hasn’t worked perfectly, I seem to have a problem doing what I know I should do – write and thank people regardless.

We all do it. We return from a meeting of some kind, with no specific thing to follow up but bundle of business cards in our pocket. We take them out and pop them on our desk and do nothing with them. We kid ourselves. We dream of having some super-gizmo that will scan them, add the details into a wonderful database, and then… nothing happens.

It’s time to do something about it. You need to be systematic. If you ‘blog’, have a newsletter, or write regularly, then you need these people on the distribution list for that. If you don’t, then you simply need them on your LinkedIn contact list.

With this in mind, the follow-up is really straightforward.

You only REALLY need three pieces of information from their card – their name, their email address and their contact phone number or SkypeID. Of course, you can keep other bits but you don’t really need them these days as so much information is available online.

  • Keep a simple, ongoing, handwritten list of those three pieces of information – just to keep things simple. You’ll tick it once to say you’ve sent an email. Second, to say that you’ve added them to any mailing list that you maintain.  Strike out the details when you’ve sent a connection request on LinkedIn.
  • Have a standard block of text in Evernote (or a text file if you haven’t yet discovered the joy of using Evernote). Think of this as your postcard…


I’m glad we had the opportunity to meet at the networking event TODAY.

Every week or so, I write a business-related article. Rather than send a message about each one, I have a weekly digest. I’d like to add you to my list for this, if you don’t mind. (You can always unsubscribe at any time.)

I find the best way to get to know people is to have a one-to-one chat either in person or by phone and wondered if we could possibly schedule something over the next couple of weeks? Other than Tuesdays, I can fit in something most days, so I wondered if there would be a good time for you?

In recent years, LinkedIn seems to have become one of the best ways of keeping up to date with people’s business moves and interests, so I also wondered if we could connect there? I’ll send you a connection request in the next few hours.

With best wishes…

  • Send this email within 48hrs, adjusting the TODAY for YESTERDAY if necessary.
  • Log on to LinkedIn and send them a straightforward connection request. I usually prefer to customise these as the LI script is pretty awful, but as you’ve already warned them it’s on its way…

And that’s all there is to it, really. Of course, you can get more fancy, but there’s really no need – a significant improvement on where you were.

Oh, and one last thing – NEVER TRY TO SELL SOMEONE SOMETHING OR TO ASK FOR A JOB DIRECTLY. That isn’t the point!

Best wishes


  1. One other little desk clearing tip in respect of the business cards…

    After an event, where you’ve collected a handful of cards, get back to your office (or bedroom if it’s a multi-day conference) and take out a piece of A4 paper. Write on the top of the paper the name of the event. Lay out the cards on the piece of paper – you can usually get at least 6 cards on one piece of A4. Now photograph the card with your smartphone or tablet and upload the image to Evernote.

    Keep any cards that have a specific follow-up to the end.

    Repeat this process until all the generic cards are photographed. Then lay out the specific ones and write the nature of that follow up next to them. Photograph the piece of paper one last time.

    Now throw the paper and cards in the bin!

    Once they are uploaded, all the text on the cards becomes searchable within Evernote.

    No, you can’t automatically populate a database from the cards, but were you going to do so anyway?

    But, when you DO make contact with someone (even if they just ring you on the off chance) within seconds (far faster than any database) you can have the image of their business card right there in front of you!

    Evernote is a FREE service – if you’ve not discovered it yet DO SO now!


  2. Hi Graham

    I’ll bet most readers can relate completely to this behaviour – I know I can.

    Great tip about using Evernote to create a searchable image database. And I support your endorsement for the tool – can’t live without it!


  3. Hi Graham,

    Thanks for these tips. This resonated with me too.

    I have mixed feelings about networking. On the one hand I want to do it am genuinely interested in people and the discussions that subsequently emerge. On the other hand I don’t like doing anything that feels contrived or ‘fake’.

    I guess the result has been the kind of ambivalent behaviour you described very honestly and eloquently.

    I shall google evernote.


  4. Hi Graham,

    I’ve not heard of Evernote, are you able to let me have the web address?

    Many Thanks

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