Conferences like the Military.com Spouse Summit (our favorite conference, obviously) are a great place to rub elbows and network in your field. They're a treasure trove of new contacts, and with them, a billion new business cards. So now that you have masses of them, what do you do with all those cards?
Long-time networkers know the key to making the most of these introductions is to act swiftly so that whatever you do, those cards don't end up in a pile at the bottom of your bag. Here's how to get started.
Weed out the cards you don't want to keep early onNot every card you get will be one you keep. To keep your collection in check, develop a system for organizing the cards you'll keep and trash from the moment you receive them. If you keep all the cards in a single stack, put the ones you want to remember face-up and the tossers face-down.
Immediately write down what you want to remember this person forWhen a keeper hands you her card, take a second to quickly jot down some memory-joggers on the card. "Chatty blonde girl, writes about employment," for example, would be an appropriate tag when I hand you my card. Unless someone's card is ingeniously creative (like those pictured here), you'll need to write down what you plan to remember them for so that you don't find their card a month later in your suitcase and wonder, "who on earth is this?" and then promptly throw the card out. Keep your notes short and to the point - you'll be glad you made them.
Catalog the keepersWhether you use an old fashioned Rolodex or a digital version of the moment, you are going to have to find a way to store the cards you want to keep. Inspiration boards and catalogs are a visually strong means of organization, but the most PCS-proof approach is to snap a photo of the card and use an application like Shoeboxed or CardMunch to digitally store it. These services enable you to hang on to all the cards you keep (both the definitives and the maybes) and easily search them later.
Make contact nowThe best approach to sealing that business card connection is to make contact as soon as possible. Try to take a few minutes to send a quick introductory email at the end of each day so that at the conclusion of the conference, you aren't left with fifty cards and no idea where to start. Break the chore up daily, or plan to contact a specific, bite-sized amount of people each day immediately upon your return. Whatever you do, focus on making contact within a week while the introductions and conference are still fresh in mind.
Establishing a good system for dealing with all those business cards not only makes all the networking you did at the conference truly successful, but it's also a great way to learn how to rethink your own cards. What note would you want someone scribbling about you? How should they remember you? What's the best way to contact you? Take that information and use it: That's everything your business cards should say next year.
Do you have any tricks for hanging on to business cards? Have you ever received any that really stand out?