As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m heading off to Alt Summit very soon. I can truly say I had never experienced anything like the business card exchange that’s present there. It’s a bit crazy and can feel intimidating when you look at your collected stack of cards at the end of the day. But – breathe easy – there’s a way to knock out the overwhelming feeling and take control of that stack like a Boss.
In short: don’t look at the follow-up like a massive, ugly project. Break it down in bite-size pieces.
Manage Along the Way
— If you’re able to make a note during the conversation, or afterwards, do so! If you writing on the card during the conversation, briefly but kindly warn the person (don’t risk the chance of offending them!).
— Make sure you have a fine-tipped Sharpie handy incase it’s a slick coated business card or plastic bag of some sort. Some people use washi tape and create their own coding system. It may sound intense but if it works, that’s awesome.
— Always come well prepared with your business cards and keep them easily accessible at all times. During events, I keep mine in a small pouch that’s easy to find in my bag; or if it’s an evening party, I keep them in my clutch. For everyday situations, I use my work bag’s main inner-pocket, which makes for an easy grab spot.
— Have a second pouch, large pencil bag, or a bag with a really large pocket, to keep business cards your received over the course of the day. This way they won’t get crumbled or lost in your pockets or bag. Warning for the creative networking events: not all business cards are created equal! Some are oversized or oddly shaped cards; or garlands, buttons, or customized candy in a bag. In short, it can really vary, which is why traditional business card holders aren’t a safe bet.
Make the Connection
— Throughout the day, between sessions, or during a little personal down time, go through the cards you’ve collected, and – hold on to your seat – contact people you’d like to or need to follow-up with for either personal or professional reasons.* Tackling the stack gradually instead of trying to do it after returning home and catching up on everything you missed while gone (ugh), makes a seemingly huge, overwhelming project a much easier one to accomplish. As a bonus for doing this throughout the conference: you’ll remember more the conversations!
— Personally, I make initial contact via Twitter while I’m taking a break from all the action. During the following week, I’ll reach out in an email about the conversation if there was talk of a possible partnership – this way hopefully they’ve caught up on missed work and ready for new emails coming their way. For those who I just *clicked* with and a friendship was created, that’s a whole different kind of follow-up – but these are also extremely important (don’t overlook those moments!!). I also do this in 15-30 minute increments so I don’t get too overwhelmed and have the chance to completely step away from it all and catch my breath.
— Keep each day’s stack of cards in separate piles – for example: contacted/not contacted piles – so you know where to pick up the next time. Rubber bands also help in keeping the completed cards – or least a majority of them – together.
From Analog to Digital & Back to Analog
— Whether or not your follow someone on social media is completely up to you, but in today’s tech world, it’s best to find at least one platform to do so. Maybe you find their Instagram account inspiring. Maybe you love Twitter and they love Twitter. Maybe Facebook is your lifeline for following other blogs and businesses.
— You may notice an uptick in follows during the conference and then it may go down a small bit within the following weeks. Don’t take offense to this! It’s all part of the ebb and flow social media and networking.
— While many of the attendees may live far away, it’s important to keep up these new found personal and/or professional relationships. It can be really tough at first, but again, cultivate these relationships with care. Follow on your favorite platforms. Read and comment on their blog and/or social media. If you happen to travel to their neck of the woods, ask about grabbing a drink together or meeting for lunch! If you both live in the same area, step away from the laptop and meet up in person!
Do you make notes on business cards? Or do you have another system? Any tips for how you go through a stack of business cards after an event? Please share below!
*Just a reminder, even though a conference or networking event is work, don’t fall into the trap thinking every person you meet is a stepping stone to accomplishing a goal, gain publicity, or a client/partnership-in-waiting. If a partnership or possible project was discussed and you’re following up on the idea, AWESOME! Do it! Otherwise, be earnest. Be genuine. Be a friend.—