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Here’s the scene: you’ve been wanting to meet with someone and the day finally arrives. The meeting goes well, and then what? How do you best follow-up and make sure it keeps the spirit of all of the good things that took place during your visit, reminding the person what you brought to the conversation? If that seems like a lot of pressure, it is, and that’s why you really need to think through how you correctly handle follow-ups. Here are some thoughts:

The handwritten note – Nothing says “This is important to me” like a handwritten note on good quality, even personalized, stationary. In a world where an email thank you can be dashed off without much thought (or by your assistant) the handwritten note has survived every wave of technology and still stands apart. Many times you can prepare the basics – envelope, stamp, return address – ahead of time so you can get it on its way with your personalized message right away. A quick, sincere follow-up is always most impressive, and the handwritten note is the icing on the cake.

What about timing? So lets say you are on an extended trip and a quick thank you and follow-up was not something you had planned? (I always keep thank you cards and personalized stationary in my travel bag.) What is the appropriate amount of time so you are not “late” with the follow-up? Generally more than a week will feel too long, but a sincere apology and explanation for the delay can buy you some extra time in a pinch. Your title and travel schedule will also be taken into consideration by the recipient. Most impressive? The busy, high level leader who somehow still finds a way to follow-up promptly.

What about content? So what do you say in a great follow-up? The usual “It was great to meet you and learn more about…” is a good start, but pretty predictable. I hate predictable! How about launching into a first line that picks up right where your conversation left off? “Who knew a woman of your stature also played field hockey at the collegiate level?” If you had a warm conversation, keep the follow-up warm. If it was strictly business, mirror that. The bottom line is connect in whatever way reflects the best of your meeting.

The unexpected follow-up – Okay, here is the secret sauce – the extra element that will help you stand out. Everyone uses the follow-up note after a first meeting. What about later? What about after weeks, months or even years of working together? The unexpected, sincere follow-up note is one of the most pleasant, surprising gestures in our crazy, over-busy world. Forgot the first follow-up? No problem, because the unexpected follow-up can put you in a league of your own.

Thoughtfulness and kindness never go out-of-fashion. Today it goes even further. Never forget the simple gesture that can help you show who you are with just a few well-chosen, handwritten words.

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: cary@clear-comm.net.