Have you ever given someone a business card and never heard back from them? That’s actually quite common. What if I tell you that I have a business card alternative that will get you a response almost 100 percent of the time? I have been using this power-networking trick for the last three years.
In my career, I have attended hundreds of conferences and collected at least several thousand business cards. From there, I have identified a few areas that are causing negative breakdowns in communication. Admittedly, I have been on both ends of these business card communication issues.
- “Human Business Card Dispensers”: This is a group of people who want to trade business cards for no obvious reason. This just adds clutter.
- Memory overload: If you had a lot of short conversations and collected several business cards, it’s very likely that you won’t remember why you collected half of the business cards you did.
- Failure to follow up: Since you don’t remember half the people anyway, when you return to all the work you need to catch up on, you’ll forget to follow up with the other half of the people as well.
- Lack of urgency: Let’s say that you did follow up, but the other person didn’t respond. This usually happens because either you were the business card dispenser, the other person had memory overload, or they were slammed when they got back and your communication didn’t require an immediate response.
Here’s my solution: reach for your phone, and exchange numbers.
I came up with this alternative while traveling to a recent event. I realized that I forgot to pack my business cards, so I decided to exchange phone numbers. I had the other person type their email in my phone so I could send them a short personalized message right away. This way, they had my information as well. By doing this, I accidentally ended up solving all the business card problems mentioned above. And I became more efficient and better at networking.
Why does it work so well?
You’re More Selective
I wasn’t giving out business cards to people I didn’t need to give them to — nor did I want to. Usually, when you exchange business cards with someone in a group setting, others may ask for your card even if they don’t need it. That’s a rookie mistake. If you ask for everyone’s information, you have to remember which ones were the important connections at the end of the day.
When you send a personal email to an individual in a group, it’s not likely that the others will ask you to send them an email as well. Not to mention, you wouldn’t normally send someone an email just to be courteous. We aren’t as selective when collecting business cards. Overall, this technique forces you to be more efficient.
You Encourage Social Reciprocity
When you send someone an email as you’re standing next to them, you’re almost guilt-tripping them into responding back. It’s likely the other person will confirm that they received the message. They might even respond to it or favorite it right away. When you’re exchanging phone numbers with a friend, one person calls the other so the other person can add it to their phone to show social reciprocity. This works in much the same way.
Because not many people do this in networking settings, it also makes you more memorable and helps you foster a positive relationship going forward.
Do I think business cards are bad? No. They serve a purpose and are quite handy when you have your own booth at a conference or if you’re in a more traditional industry like accounting, finance or real estate.
While I usually carry some with me just in case, I now rely primarily on my new strategy. Next time you’re at a networking event, instead of giving out your business card, try reaching for your phone. I bet you will get better results every single time!
A version of this post originally appeared on SyedBalkhi.com.