I Accepted an Invitation Today

We’re getting back to face-to-face meetings….and here are some tips on what to do with all those business cards.

I was thrilled this week to receive an invitation I long took for granted – notice of a networking luncheon meeting at a local country club.

I’m going to attend, even though the date’s not ideal, because I’m just so thrilled I can.

It’s been a long time.

Now I need to gather up my business cards for that networking part of the gathering.

You remember that, right? Exchanging business cards, sometimes whether you wanted to or not?

So a couple of things about that.

There was a time when I used my business cards only rarely. When I moved from that corporate life to one of a solopreneur, I had a lot to learn about the value of contacts and relationships.

I was fairly quick to grasp the idea that to make contacts, you needed a shared connection and probably the person’s contact info. I’m a people person, so business card exchanges at business meetings became quite comfortable for me, but I did notice there was some skill involved.

For some of you reading this, this is all old hat. But here’s my perspective.

The business card is intended as a tool useful in making connections, simply distributing them is not the goal. Some people use them to try to start a conversation, and that isn’t the most appealing way to make a good first impression. But do have them handy so that when you are speaking with someone and one or both of you wants to keep in touch, you can quickly and graciously give them a card without fumbling around in purse or wallet to dig up a dog-eared card.

Some people appear unwilling to share their business card when they are really just uncomfortable with the process, but that discomfort sometimes gets hidden under what appears to be arrogance. Also not a recommended way to make a good impression. Graciously give your card if someone wants it.

“May I have your card?” and “May I give you my card?” are both sentences that work just fine in networking.

There is also the school of thought that it’s rude to exchange business cards or even have them at a totally social setting, like a wedding. Personally, I disagree. Of course you don’t want to “work the room” telling people about your book or business, but I always slip a couple of business cards into an evening bag because you just never know who you will meet and connect with.

Here are a couple more tips I learned as part of the eWomen Network, a group that specializes in networking.

For one thing, write on the card. I used to treat cards as sacrosanct, but they are much more useful if  you know why you have them. Note on the card where you met the person, what you were going to do next for or with that person, and make those notations right away, even while you are still chatting. If you are at a setting where you are meeting a lot of people, those notations are lifesavers. Sometimes I’ve had to later also make notes on the cards like “met Wednesday night — blonde who reminded me of Megan” or whatever to help me place the person when I was overwhelmed with meeting people.

And then there’s that list we keep talking about. Those business cards are valuable and are how you build that list of people you want to keep in touch with and keep informed.

But, finally, let’s be honest. Not all business cards are keepers. You take them politely, but some you will later throw away.

Here’s a quick story on how NOT to do that.  At my last high school reunion, one previously shy classmate had unexpectedly blossomed into a hospital CEO a few decades later. At the reunion, one of my friends with some hospital social work experience started chatting with the CEO and pulled out her business card and gave it to the CEO. After a few minutes of listening to my social worker friend, the CEO kind of nodded her head, ripped my friend’s card in half in front of her, threw it on the table, and moved on to talk to someone else.

Don’t recommend that approach.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on May 14, 2021.
Joni Sullivan Baker
jbaker@buoyancypr.com