We’ve all been told time and time again that networking events are important for our career but many of us still do not attend them. I believe that networking is a crucial stepping-stone for business professionals, and can only be of benefit to you and your career.

People always have a great story about how a business relationship started at a networking event. Even though a lot of our professional interactions happen from behind the computer screen these days, in person networking is still important.

Putting in some “face time” can be a great way to grow your professional contacts and your business.  In order for a networking event to be successful, you can’t just show up, you have to put in some work after the fact.

Here are the top 5 things I always do after a networking event:

1. Send an e-mail no later than 24 hours   

Don’t wait until the next day or the next week. Chances are you won’t get around to it, and even if you do, the recipient may not recall who you are.

Send an e-mail to everyone you took a card from. Even if you don’t see an immediate connection, just say thanks and it was a pleasure meeting you.

2. Connect on Social Media

Social media is a great way to keep in contact with people you meet at networking events. LinkedIn would be the most appropriate networking social media connection. LinkedIn is the right platform to share business connections and see who you know in common.

Many people reserve their personal Facebook page for personal contacts and would refrain from a Facebook connection.

3. Make the Call

Pick up the phone and let your new acquaintance know you enjoyed meeting them and would like to keep the conversation going. Ask if they prefer to schedule a phone chat or coffee meeting as a follow-up.

You should never be timid about following up with a phone call.  That is why you received a business card.

4. Set a Casual Meeting

Propose a face-to-face meeting over coffee with contacts that have the most potential or simply where it makes sense.  Show interest in what they do and who they are.

After every networking event you attend you should go through all the business cards you received and pull out those from people that you may be able to do business with.  After connecting with them on social media, take it a step further and reach out to set up a meeting.

The meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the person’s business and brainstorm on how you may be able to work together.  It also gives you a chance to get to know the person better.

5. Keep In Touch

When you follow up regularly and share information of value after meeting someone you become someone they trust. You will naturally build a solid relationship and before you know it they will become your best clients and partners.

I find that networking is the best way to get out there and create valuable conversations with my peers. I constantly meet new peers or customers, develop my knowledge/skills, and explore new ideas.