In a fast moving, social media world, the art of the business card exchange is still a useful and valuable networking tool to master. When exchanging business cards, remember three things for effective information gathering at your next networking event.
1. Exchange business cards at the end of a conversation. Imagine walking over to an individual and handing them your card and then introducing yourself. Usually the person takes a look at your card first and then you, along with any preconceived notions they have based on that quick profile they have created. When you walk over to meet someone in the hopes of expanding your network, it`s best to give them a little time to get to know you as person first. Keeping the conversation easy within an introduction will make it an easier exchange. Just because it is a professional exchange does not mean it has to feel so official.
2. Ask first before you offer. So you are excited to network, talk about how great you are and show off your shiny new cards – but hold off for just a moment. Ask yourself how this new connection can benefit from your card. First, find out who they are, learn more about their needs, and how you can help. Humility can go a long way in these circumstances. When you close with who you are and relate it back to them, you are more valuable as a connection. It is also nicer to hear on the other side, “Would you mind if I give you my business card?” vs. “ Here’s my card” or just offering it without asking.
3. Take notes and personalize your card(s). If you are a good networker then hopefully you will have many cards before the end of an event – but what’s next? It is easy to collect a lot of cards but you’ll want to be strategic in how you use them. Otherwise, it’s a lost opportunity. When you receive someone else’s card, make notes on it like: In charge of hiring for policy positions, works out of DC office, he went to the same university, we have a shared friend in common, he wore a red tie and likes football events. The back of every card you receive should have notes all over them. This way you not only keep everyone straight, but you also remember great personal information that will help you stay connected and remembered. Also make notes on your card if you want to stand out in a new connections deck. For me personally, if I have a great conversation with someone, I will also include my LinkedIn page and/or a note that helps them remember who I am. Any effort to help you stand apart is well worth it.
After all the cards are exchanged and you meet different people, be sure to take it a step further and connect on LinkedIn. Whether you exchange information with your coveted mentor or a peer, remember that any and all exchanges are valuable and you never know which one of those cards can lead to your next opportunity!