Networking 114 – Business Card Ritual

Here is the 13th Article I wrote for 336Events.com

by Teddy Burriss Social Networking Pro

Networking events are not Business Card Swap Meets.

Some people buy business cards, dole them out like candy and get giddy when they have to order more. These folks think leading with their business cards is the best way to get business. Many of these folks believe their business cards are proudly sitting on the desks of the people they were given to. Look on your desk, how many cards do you have proudly displayed there?

I’ve met people at networking events who reached out to me with their business card in hand as I reached out to shake their hand hello.

Attending a networking event without your business cards is often considered a major failure. People will talk about you, “He’s here and he has no business cards with him. Bless his little soul. What a shame.” You almost want to crawl into a corner and weep quietly.

I worked for a guy who cheered when I came to the office with a bunch of business cards collected while networking. He would slap me on the back and say, “Good job, now put those cards in the system.” I imagined him sitting in his office smiling, listening to the clatter of my keyboard as I entered the business card information into our CRM system.

He cheered almost as loudly when I told him I was nearly out of my business cards. I imagined him on the phone saying gleefully, “He ran out of cards again,” as he ordered more cards for me.

I have learned from my mistakes of the past.

Leading with your business card when networking does not work. Lead with yourself when networking, now this works.

Say hello to someone new at your next networking event. Ask engaging questions like, “What brought you here today?” or “Who else have you met here?”

Use Dale Carnegie principle #7, “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” Ask questions so that you learn as much as you can in the short time you get to talk with this new person. As you focus on your networking partner they are going to want to know about you as well. If the conversation goes well and you find that there could be a benefit to meet again, for you or your networking partner, say this, “Wow, I’ve enjoyed our chat. Can we exchange contact information and do this again soon?”

Now you can whip out business cards and exchange them with each other.

You just made a new connection. It’s a connection between you and the person you met. Store your new contact’s information in your personal contacts database. I use a Google Apps for all of the connections I make in life, career, business and community. They are my connections.

Send an email to your new connection letting them know you enjoyed meeting and talking with them. If appropriate and agreed upon, follow up on any actions you agreed to do.

Lead with yourself, make the conversation all about your networking contact and follow up with business cards only if there is an interest and desire to continue a conversation. Often there will be a desire to continue the conversation, if you lead with yourself.

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