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I recently read a blog post written by Emma Fryer on business cards and networking (and how they can potentially be a portable memory of you at an event) which got me thinking about this topic myself.
As a fairly frequent networker, I come across business cards of all shapes and sizes, colours, thicknesses and designs, as well as actually meeting the people behind them… most of the time!
What I mean by this is simply, I’ve learnt personally over the last few months that if somebody is interested in you and/or your services, they will take the time to talk to you, get to know you and perhaps swap business cards with you if you might be able to use each other in some way moving forward.
I used to go to networking events and believe that I would need to be armed with hundreds of business cards at the ready, pouncing on anybody who made eye contact with me to ensure that they didn’t leave empty handed. This was until, one day, I was chatting away to two other networkers and a man wandered up to us, said a quick “hello” whilst interrupting us mid-conversation and thrust a business card into each of our hands.
Did he stay and discuss his business with us? No, he did not. He walked away and continued this process with the rest of the room to our utter astonishment. To this day, I don’t think his business could be remembered as I promptly filed his card into the nearest bin.
My warning whilst networking would be this; by all means, visit your next event with a handful of cards (check out Print Hut for great service on printing within the UK), but take the time to make REAL connections and ensure that you don’t waste your printing costs by doing as this business owner did to me, it’s purely a waste of everybody’s time and is just not great business etiquette in my humble opinion.
Here are some of my tip top tips for business cards and networking:
Make sure that your business cards are in an easy to find place, so that when you do swap cards, you aren’t jugging keys, phones and pulling sanitary items out of your bag whilst hunting for that one card “you know is here somewhere”.. it’s not a great first impression (and yes, I’ve been there myself)!
After a networking event, should you have taken any business cards home, quickly go through them and make any notes on the card itself as to where you met the person, what they do, their hobbies, the date and any conversation topics you can remember for next time you connect. This is a fantastic tip for when you are emailing a contact much later on, as it’s very easy to forget who people are as your business card collection grows!
If the event you are attending has a social media page or a hashtag, embrace the technology and use to your advantage – you can connect with people within the room whilst there and you never know, you may be unaware that a “Twitter friend” is actually there too until you’ve checked in, so use this to your advantage and connect online too. Nowadays, I tend to connect with more people virtually at an event than through business cards, oh technology is a glorious thing!
If you find networking daunting (I still very much dislike walking into a crowded room alone) then migrate to the warmest person in the room, you’ll sense it as soon as you arrive and you must never forget that they may well be just as nervous as you are. Whilst networking, I like to set myself the challenge of connecting with at least 3 new people at an event, after this, anything is a bonus. I find smaller aims such as this much easier to cope with if feeling overwhelmed in a crowded room and it will soon help your confidence in chatting to others.
I would like to say that I file my business cards in my office, however I simply have a large tin that I pop them into for safe storage. I have a memory like an elephant, so I never find it tricky to hunt out a contact when I need one, but some wise advice could be to pop all your new contacts onto a spreadsheet before letting go of a card for easy searching later on.
Never add somebody to your mailing list just because they’ve given you their business card, this doesn’t give you the permission to do this, so please ask them before actioning this – it’s a huge frustration when this happens and can cause unnecessary admin for the recipient if they have to go to your website to unsubscribe. You don’t want to make enemies before you’ve even started now do you?!…
Do you have any thoughts on how to store your business cards? Or perhaps how to swap them at an event? I would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below, so come and join the conversation!