Wouter Smet

On web startups, technology, music and growth

Why Business Networking at Events Sucks for People like Me and How I’ve Been Fixing It

So here’s the thing: I consider myself pretty decent at ‘business networking’. The reasons for that are that I am not too intimidated when striking up a conversation with a total stranger, but even more – I like to think – that I try to listen attentively, and am genuinely interested in what people do and have to say. Every encounter is an opportunity to learn after all. Dale Carnegie would be proud.

Meeting new (and great) people at an event - the part that I can do - inbound2015

The part that’s fun: connecting with new, great people at an event

So, generally I have always liked attending or speaking at various business or networking events. And while I am not much of a ‘smooth talking sales guy’ or even ‘business person’ overall, often enough I do end up with valuable conversations where we end up discovering next steps that can bring both of us clear value – an agreement to try a demo and see if there’s a fit, a promise to dedicate a blog post to each other’s product, etc.

So we’ll end up with a heartfelt hand shake, a quick exchange of business cards or a linkedIn request, and a genuine ‘looking forward, talk soon’ for after the event.

The problem is what comes next.

Because, you see, beyond first encounters, I am not the most ‘socially organised’ person, to put it mildly. I barely tolerate entering data in a CRM, have a virtually non-existent memory for names, and typically end up with is a big pile of crumpled business cards of which some are  connected to a really great conversation that I need to follow up on, and the majority is because exchanging them was a politeness. But which was which, again?

... My typical aftermath of a business event.

… Less fun: my typical aftermath of a business event.


And besides, I’m tired and my head is still spinning from the event – by the time I can bring myself to the ‘follow-up’ part, the nice personal details of the conversation are long forgotten, and the CRM looks like a drag – I got a full inbox waiting thank you very much.

The ‘e-mail on the spot’ fix

So here is my fix that I have tried with success on various events I attended.

For those great conversations in which there is clearly value to pursue more conversation, I fire off a quick email on the spot. So either I straight up refuse their business card, pull out the Gmail app and say ‘never mind that, just give me your email’, or I accept the business card and before continuing to the next ‘mingle’ I make sure to take the email address from it and fire off that e-mail.

This is Hubspot's CEO Brian Halligan granting us early access to a product they just unveiled at Inbound14 conference.

This is Hubspot’s CEO Brian Halligan, shortly after his keynote, granting our company early access to a product they just unveiled at Inbound14 conference.

I have found this to work pretty neatly for me, not just for the reasons above, but also because:

  • By the time y’all get back home, the conversation and next steps have already started. So no nagging doubts about the exact pleasantries you talked about that make the message more personal, no forgetting.
  • It does not depend on the circumstances: sometimes we brought business cards, sometimes the other person is also used to linkedIn or whatever, but I always have my phone on me, and people always read a (personal, relevant) email.

Dreaming of even less pain: ByeTalkSoon

Still, the system has its drawbacks: I always have to type the full message (even if it’s often just a subject saying ‘Great to meet you at [event], let’s talk [topic of continued value] soon!’ even if most parts of it – but not all, I’m not a robot! – are repeated.

So, on to a solution, or rather a concept of a solution: together with a friend of mine we’re created a little app for that to make this process even more seamless. We christened it ByeTalkSoon, and it’s very much ‘minimal viable product’ (only works with gmail for example), but still, I like it a lot!

So, event networking app ByeTalkSoon.com is officially online now, and I’m very curious to see if this a ‘problem’ worth solving or if I’m the only one that has it!


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