Written by: Alleeshia Williams
You attend an event, collect a lot of business cards, then you look at the pile of paper and wonder “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that as a young professional it is not only critical to own a personal supply of business cards but it is imperative to collect business cards at every event you attend. Why? Glad you asked!
Here is a quick rundown on business cards protocol:
Give your business cards to each person that you introduce yourself to. DO NOT hand out your business card to everyone you see as if you are passing out flyers. Not only is just handing your business cards out to everyone distracting, but it is also annoying. It’s the equivalent to receiving junk mail at your house. Unless you asked for information about the Functionator 3000 vacuum cleaner, chances are you are not going to joyfully read the advertisement that came in the mail – especially if you are as busy as most of us are.
Question: But shouldn’t the goal be to get my name and contact info in front of as many people as possible?
Answer: Yes, and that is what the business cards are for. But introduce yourself, network, and explore new individuals to prevent unnecessary communication. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you successfully networked with a hundred people because you handed out a hundred business cards.
One of the goals of networking is to identify qualified leads, potential employers or referral sources. That doesn’t mean that you don’t meet and talk to people outside of those targets. But it does mean you are selective about who you choose to exchange information with.
Have an ample supply of business cards to exchange at any event. If I am interested in connecting with someone beyond an event, I will ask for a way to contact them. Notice that I did not say I will give them my card or give them my contact information. Why? If I give them my card, I have no control over whether they will contact me or not. If I get their information I have access to follow up with a phone call, via e-mail, or by connecting through their website. Passing out my card to 20 people does not mean that I will get 20 calls. But acquiring contact information of 20 people guarantees that I will have 20 people to add to my follow-up list.
Quick Tip:When you receive a business card, write a reminder note on the back of it. It could be a note about what you talked about, a reminder about why you asked for their information. Something that jogs your memory as you go through the sea of cards you have in your collection.
Rule #3: Follow up via LinkedIn. The purpose of LinkedIn is to increase your professional network of friends, increase your professional knowledge, and learn about recent market trends in any industry. **Always send a personalized invitation, stating where you met, letting them know once again how glad you were to meet them** It is extremely impersonal to get the standard “Hi, Join my network….” The more welcoming you are, the better your chance of gaining a successful new business partner.
Question: But can’t I just keep the card in case I need the service later?
Answer: Yes you can. But it seems more likely to receive a referral from a familiar contact rather than choosing a random card from your stack. Don’t make the assumption that just because you have their card, that the business or individual is a part of your network – especially if you have no experience with the quality of their work.
Happy Networking and remember: Be remember-able!