Conferences like SXSWedu are great opportunities to meet and network with other professionals. But with that community building inevitably comes a pile of business cards.
I'm someone who hates clutter. As a writer I already have more than enough notebooks, loose leaf paper, and little ideas scribbled for my home office space. What I don’t need are even more little slips of paper hanging around!
After any conference where I get a the contacts of a bunch of wonderful people I have a strategy for both documenting and communicating with them. It starts by simply typing up cards into a spread sheet. The sheet has columns labeled:
Website (personal or company's)
How/ where we met
With the pertinent information running vertically across the cells.
If you want to go an extra measure you could also add a column (or two) that says when you contacted them and whether or not they responded or took action (such as connecting over a media platform) as a result of the email. I choose not to do this, in part because I'm more interested in continuing conversations than quick boosts, so the hope is that my reaching out sets off a thread of emails, a Twitter conversation, phone call, or similar back and forth to build our relationship.
I send the email as soon as the card is typed up. Going one at a time so I don't procrastinate and let things pile up. Or slip into the habit of saying, “first I’ll do the easy thing and type the cards, then I’ll email,”… and never actually email. I also know, without having to make an extra column or any highlights, who has been contacted when I work at this slower pace.
Finally, when it's all done, I recycle the cards. As someone who has cards and adds onto the pile of others I know this might seem cruel. "These cost money to make!" and "What if you want to pass it on to someone?" Are two common quips. In answer, I know they cost money and also take time to design, but it makes me feel better and write more efficiently having a clear space and keeping the cards in storage would just add unnecessary clutter.
And if I want to pass on the info, I'd simply send that person an email or text. It's more seamless too, they can copy the email right from their account and send a message or highlight the number on their phone and make a call.
Give it a try next time you come home from an event with a stack of business cards. And if you have any organizing strategies you like please share!
Oh, and if you do go digital, don’t forget to back-up your spreadsheet!