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I’m planning on attending my first conference later this year, and while most of my thoughts will surely be about what to wear (or, more likely, what NOT to wear), some center on how to make sure I make contacts and keep those contacts organized.
In my previous life, I organized conferences for a software company. Some were smaller conferences with a few hundred attendees while others were enormous thousands upon thousands of visitors. In our booth, big or small, we would have fish bowls to collect business cards. For the most part, these were for the people that were just stopping by for swag but we put them on our list of follow up anyway. We would write little notes on the cards, things that would indicate if there more than just a swag seeker and had an actual interest. Of course, there were also the cards collected while attending a session or while grabbing that quick bite to eat in the hallway. And then there are cards that an intermediary passes along to you. Ones that you had hoped to meet but it just didn’t happen for you. You just get the card passed along for your collection.
Tucked in your pocket, your luggage or a fish bowl, the act of collecting business cards can get overwhelming.
Once home, sifting and sorting through the cards can be a nightmare. Who was that person again? What were they looking for? It’s great to have little notes jotted down on the card to help with this process. Or, if your circumstance doesn’t permit it, you can always do a left pocket / right pocket type organization where you place more importance on the cards you put into one pocket than the other.
At the end of a conference, I used to do 3 stages of sorting – Immediate follow up, 2nd wave of follow up and then the 3rd wave. I know it sounds terrible to make one card less important than another, but let’s face it – you don’t want to write a generic “nice to have met you” email to the entire group. And, some business cards warrant a next day (or sooner) response. Sorting through in waves makes things more manageable.
Hopefully I can shake off the dust that has accumulated from the years since my last conference. I know one thing is important, making sure I have a business card so that if I’m in someone’s immediate follow up category, they’ll know just how to reach me! I’ve always had such great success with my Tiny Prints purchases I was delighted to find out they also offer business cards! I’m partial to this cute business card from Tiny Prints but there are so many professional cards from which to choose. Oh the decisions!
What type of advice do you have for a Blog Conference Newbie?
*Disclosure: I was provided a gift code for 50 Business Cards in exchange for this post.