First of all, if you’re going to attend an event, have business cards that give people a way to contact you. If you’re not going as a representative of your current day job, make your own cards, and put your own sites and links and contact information on them. But then what? Or maybe you’re still stuck on “why?” questions. Let’s talk it over.
* Cards are Good Conversation Starters- If your card isn’t plain white or doesn’t look like you used a built in MS Word template, people will often look at your card the way one looks at a four-year-old’s rendition of a fire truck. “Ohhh, this is gooood.” They nod as they say this. People want to acknowledge you and what your card says you do. It’s almost a ritual thing.
* Cards are Reminders- When you get back from the conference, you’ll fish in your pocket and take that new stack of cards out. You now have X number of new contacts that either seemed interesting, cared about what you were doing, or were looking to use your product, service, brains, whatever.
USE THE CARDS
Let’s talk for a minute. Once you get back from a conference, kiss your significant other. Thank him or her for giving you this opportunity to explore your passion or your vocation or whatever it is that pays the bills. Kiss the kids, pet the gerbil, whatever. And then, march over to your computer and compose some email.
Send “Nice Seeing You at BarCamp Boston” emails to people, with clear subject lines, and then inside, start with telling them who you are again (you ALL met lots of people, right?), what you had to talk about then — and here, include something personal that you learned during the event. Did he mention his four year old daughter? Ask if she was still awake when he got home.
Finish this email with whatever “call to action” you’re hoping for. Even if that’s, “I hope we can talk more in the future about Spaceship construction,” make sure you’ve got some snip in there that gets them wanting to hit reply, and wanting to continue the relationship.
# File the Cards- My current method of filing cards from events is that I gather them all in a binder clip and then toss them in a drawer. But here are a few ideas/hacks to consider: what if you ‘ranked’ the cards in order of people you most want to follow up with, all the way down to people you took a card from because it was polite to do so? Wouldn’t that help you remember what mattered, and with whom you should definitely follow up?
Second, write on the backs of them a reminder or two about what you talked about. You remember NOW, but will you in seven months? How will you remember after the third conference in a row? Put something on the card to remind yourself what went down.
# What about Scanning?- Fine by me, but unless the scan does OCR and gives me instant contact list addings, I don’t feel like doing the work. Neither do I like using those pages for planners that let you neatly align the cards. I never USE cards that way. I tend to shuffle through them because that’s what I like. I like the feel of shuffling cards that reflect people who are interesting, helpful, customers, etc.
# Why the Binder Clip Method?- I like the binder clip because it gives instant CONTEXT to the cards. It’s all the people I met at BarCamp Boston, and not all the people who are DBAs. Why? My personal organizational take is that I’ll need some context to remember which DBA it was that knew something about MySQL to Oracle porting. Oh yeah, I met her at Podcast Academy. Right?
# Revisit Cards- Set a reminder for a month or two after an event to review the cards you collected at the event. This will give you a chance to rekindle anything worth moving forward on that you didn’t/couldn’t finish the first time you sent mail.
If you’re going to bother attending shows, please realize the meta purposes for being there. You have a few missions all snuck into one event:
1.) Learn new things.
2.) Meet new people.
3.) Make connections.
4.) Develop business or other types of partnerships.
5.) Make friends.
Cards can help with a few of those, if only as props and a way to move conversations forward. The cards end up serving as a micro billboard for what you did, why you attended, and who you met. And they may just be a great start to a new story of your life.