Exchanging business cards

At a recent panel discussion and networking reception for Masters students interested in working in Brussels, one of the participants asked what she should do with the business cards she’s been holding on to for a year.

If the card in question was given to you by someone truly amazing, like Nelson Mandela or Justin Bieber, maybe you can keep it and put it on your fridge, but generally speaking piles of old business cards are worth… nada.

That’s not to say that business cards are useless, far from it. They are the keys to magical, rainbow lands of opportunities or, at the very least, coffee dates paid by someone else. So here are two quick tips to help you on the way to fostering an array of glittering connections.

TIP number one of the Japanese school. How to exchange business cards successfully.

When handed a business card, you might be tempted to just slip it into to your bag or pocket right? In Brussels we’re handed so many business cards at the end of every handshake, at the beginning of every presentation, we just stick them with all the others and say thanks. Wrong.

When handed a business card (sorry if this is super obvious to the more sophisticated networkers among you, but it took me a few goes to learn this) look at it. That’s right! Look at it. Don’t just swap it with yours and walk off. Instead, take a moment to remember the person’s name (I am particularly bad at this). Look at their job title and say something about it.

For example, “I didn’t know you led a sales team, that must be very exciting”, or “wasn’t your Director arrested last month?”. Something memorable anyway, and with a bit more enthusiasm that just polite chit-chat. This is as much for the person standing opposite you as it is for your overstretched networking brain cells. It will help your new contact remember who you are and, hopefully, they will even be pleased or flattered by your genuine interest in what they do. Note: genuine.

TIP number two from the American school. Send a refreshingly peppy email.

Now that you’ve got your business card, don’t just forget about it in the graveyard of business cards that is your handbag or coat pocket. Your precious contact will soon be at another drinks reception and will have forgotten all about you. So this is when we can learn from the Americans and be bold as brass. Bring on the trumpets!

Write an email to your new contact the next day after meeting them. Yes the next day! Later appears insincere and sooner appears desperate or stalkerish. Best to avoid that. Begin with a flourish. Something along the lines of “it was a real pleasure speaking with you about kitty litter legislation yesterday and I hope we cross paths again soon etc.”. This email will then hopefully begin a thread of scintillating conversation which could lead who knows where? Headhunting, a promotion, a television and modelling career, a nobel prize!

One thing is for certain, if you don’t remember who gave you that business card a year ago, they probably won’t remember you. So don’t call them up asking for a job or a loan or anything, unless you get a kick out of receiving emails with expletives or collecting restraining orders.

Article by Laura Hemmati, Cofounder Leadarise

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