Any advice on how to follow up / be in touch with new connections?
How to follow up depends a little on what type of interaction you had. With some people you just had a nice brief chat, but you didn’t connect either professionally or personally. I would say you don’t have to follow up with them at all, just be friendly if you meet them again somewhere in the future.
If you connected with someone personally, like if you are both grad students and went bar-hopping, then just do the usual friendly stuff that you young folks do :): email, text, Facebook, tweet. Whatever feels comfortable.
But if you connected with someone mostly professionally, if you do similar research, that’s actually quite easy because scientists are huge geeks in the best sense of the word: they are passionate about their work and LOVE to find someone else who shares their passion. In this case, a few days after the conference, I usually send an email saying something like this (unless I get a similar email from the other party first!):
This is Xykademiqz from the University of New Caprica. It was a real pleasure to meet you last week at the 15th International Conference of Awesome. I enjoyed hearing about your research on superawesome spins and ultraawesome laser pulses. As promised, I am sending you a PDF of my presentation, as well as the preprints of the Glam Mag and Reputable Society Journal papers that I mentioned when we spoke; they are about to come out in the next month.
[Optional 1: Invite them to come give a talk at your place, such as “Would you like to come give a talk at UNC? Our seminar series is on Tuesdays. If you are interested, send me a few dates that work.” If they tentatively invited you to their institution and you really want to go, you can throw it out there and say “About me coming to give a talk at your place, I could do mid-April or early May. Let me know which dates would work. Thanks again!”
Optional 2: Insert joke about weather/sport/food in exotic locales/travel/something not entirely technical that you might have discussed.]
When someone I know sends me their papers, I always at least briefly take a look, and I think most people do. I have several colleagues with whom I have a relationship where we will just send each other our new papers that we think the other one might find interesting, accompanied by a few pleasantries and general information about life (for instance, if you send your new papers, you might also add that you are moving institutions). Then, we hang out whenever we meet at conferences again, but usually not all the time, a few meals or coffee breaks. With a few colleagues the relationship has become a tad closer, in that we will actually send each other emails to the effect of “Long time no see, what have you been up to?” In that case, I would say mentioning that you got married or pregnant or that someone close had passed away would probably be OK. A couple of my European colleagues send me Christmas cards. With quite a few I have an open invitation to come and give a talk whenever I am in Europe, which I did take advantage of once or twice.
Also, if you see the other person’s new paper in a journal, that’s an excellent excuse to ping them (“Just saw your paper in Nature, congratulations!” ) The same holds if you see they won an award — be happy for them and let them know you are!
Overall, try to keep it friendly and light, perhaps a little aloof. You certainly shouldn’t push anything.
I will shut up now and let others chime in.
What say you, blogosphere: Once you have met new people at a conference, how do you stay in touch?