At Poked, we set out to empower people with tremendous business opportunities.
We help professionals become exceptional at the arcane art of networking, with a practical tool to create, nurture, and activate valuable business connections.
Today, we study a key aspect of networking: remembering the information that matters.
Why should you take notes about professional connections?
Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. - Napoleon Hill
The principles behind this quote from 1938’s networking classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is still completely relevant today: People love people who remember them.
Yet, most people tend to completely forget that fact as soon as the person they’re speaking to leaves the room. Our short-term memory quickly flushes the whole interaction. It’s human.
Taking notes, even basic ones, sets you immediately in the top 1% of professionals, because no one else does it.
We’re here to show you that taking great notes can be done in a short amount of time, and that it’ll actually make you feel great over time.
1. What makes a good note
No need to reinvent the wheel, they are time-tested principles on good note-taking. There should be:
In your own words. Not writing for an audience removes a lot of the pressure. Use the words that come first, and don’t judge your thoughts. Any note is better than no notes.
Reviewable. Being fast is good. But if you can’t review your own notes, they become useless. Look for that sweet spot between speed and readability.
Concise. A single word in a specific situation can convey to you more information than 1,000 words from someone else. Write short notes. Over time, you’ll develop your own symbols and keywords.
On the contrary, you want to avoid these pitfalls:
Scribbling down in a hurry. Notes are not drafts. If a situation forces you to hurry, make sure to refine those notes when you have the time.
Redundant information. Writing down names or companies made sense before social media. But not anymore. Avoid wasting time writing things available online. Focus on your own unique experience with that human being.
Collector’s fallacy. Too many/long notes are tiresome to review and can cause you to fail to review them properly. Focus on the important, use keywords, and be OK with trimming them down when necessary.
2. What should you write?
Let’s get more practical. Some information is more useful than others in your professional relationship. Here are 5 topics to strongly consider when writing a note - Emphasis on #2.
Meeting context. Notes that seem obvious today will be very welcome in 3 years' time: How did you meet? Who was there? Who introduced you? For what purpose? Give your future self some context.
Their problems. What are they struggling with? Can you provide a solution, resource, or introduce them to someone to fix that? Keeping these in some part of your brain will help you nurture that relationship.
Hobbies. Are they passionate about river delta sailing, 16th-century lute-making, or Halloween costume for dogs? Rather than the weather, making small talk about stuff they love will give you an access ramp to their cool books.
Strong opinions. Humans love to share strong feelings with people they agree with. What are they fighting for? What did they rant about? What matters to them? Remember this and fuel their fire, or avoid faux pas if you disagree.
Their personality. How did you perceive them? What struck you? Open your third eye to things that can help you get on their good sides.
Would a haiku help remember what good networking notes should be? We’ve got you:
Build special relationships
3. Notes privacy
What makes networking notes radically different from CRM notes is their audience: You.
Keeping notes strictly confidential frees you from going through the hoops of giving context to your team. It saves time, shortens notes, and allows you to make very personal points.
Networking notes are also emancipated from the short-term goals of CRM notes. It’s a relationship that you’re building, not just a sale. Thinking with a 5 to 30 years time frame in mind puts you in a totally different mindset and will lead to different content.
What about the CRM? Well, it needs to be maintained and used by your team. Don’t neglect it, just take into account that they serve another purpose.
4. Use Verbatims
Verbatim. /vəːˈbeɪtɪm/, adverb: In exactly the same words as were used originally.
Words tell a lot about the mindset of someone. That is, for instance, why marketers study verbatim reviews of their customers. It helps them craft relatable copy and powerful brands.
You can use this principle too in your networking. If they used a specific term of jargon, or phrasing, to express an idea, write it down. Speaking back to them in the words they understand best will subtly increase their interest in you and your relationship.
5. When should you write notes down?
The short answer is: as soon as possible.
Yet, there is a catch to it.
When you were a kid, did you meet your best friend because you had taken good notes about them? Or because you were your goofy, authentic, self?
We want to avoid falling into the good student trap, taking notes as soon as the person we’re meeting walks away. Have fun! Go deep, bring up original topics, and make this encounter unique. A genuine encounter - with no notes - will always be more valuable than the perfect notes of a shallow encounter.
Notes should be the byproduct of a good encounter. Not the point.
But when the meeting phase is over, go wild with your notes! Trust your short-term memory, it’ll all come back to you. And keep in mind the principles of good notes: own words, reviewable, and concise.
6. Review notes on a regular basis
Reviewing your notes has two purposes: Intentional use and passive use.
Intentional use happens when you’re going to a professional event you went to previously. Review your notes to prepare for it, cram specific topics (16th-century lute-making?), and have names handy. You have a purpose in mind.
Passive use is meant for nurturing your professional relationships. It helps you bring back the issues and topics dear to your connections so that when you stumble on an interesting article or a timely new connection, you can casually make that intro that’ll help them.
How often you should do this review exercise is up to you.
Some will browse their notes after adding a new one, inspired by a keyword they vaguely remember writing down. Others set a time and day to read all their notes. Choose which works for you.
7. Did you commit to anything?
It’s common to promise someone some intro or information. And following up promptly on that promise - or failing to do so - will be a major green - or red - flag to your reputation.
But professional networking notes are not a to-do list.
We recommend you keep your notes clear from any short-term engagements and write those as separate tasks.
8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Working on your professional network is for the long game. If you’re in your 20s today, some of the relationships you’re starting might still be relevant in the 2060s.
So if you’re new to this, don’t try to go and write bland notes on your 1,000+ LinkedIn contacts and burn your spirits in the process.
Here is a short practical to-do to get you started:
Initialize your network with notes and reminders. Right now, pick a manageable number of people that you personally like and wish to strengthen ties with, and write some basic notes: problem, context, and a reminder to contact them every 6 months (or whatever you seem fit).
Build habits. Then go into a habit of writing down a few points after each new professional encounter. Use the above tips, and don’t forget to review your notes! It’s 50% of the work.
Don’t overlook anyone. Today’s intern can be tomorrow’s CEO, and even if they’re not, remember that sentence you read in Goethe’s latest book: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him”.
Yes it’s simple. It’s keeping at it over the long-term that’s hard.
9. It starts today
Poked helps you make sense of your professional network, and cultivate serendipity.
And today is a good day to start taking your career to the next level.
In fact, it’s just a few actionable steps away.
Starting with signing up to a free Poked trial
See you on the other side.
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