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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

Thinking on Business Cards & Connecting

I’ve been thinking about the problem of connecting people at events for a while – what could we do to make it easier or more effective? Business cards are the traditional tool for exchanging information and they still work, though in our space maybe 50% of the people at an event will have them. Assuming you do exchange cards, then there is the dreaded follow up stage, deciding whether to follow up, how to do it if you do follow up, or just throwing the card away (or losing it).

Seems like we should be able to solve this with technology, but the one I consider most promising – bluetooth business cards – hasn’t made much headway. There are other services that try to do it, but they all feel clunky, forcing you to type in a phone number or email address to initiate the contact. Both are error prone, and many services assume that everyone you know will play their game (rarely).

Seems like one thing that might work is to just make sure everyone has cards. A simple way to do that is a reminder to bring some, but probably more realistic is to just print 10-20 on regular 20# paper and include in the stuff they get at the door. Everyone having a card doubles (in theory) the chances of connecting again once business cards are exchanged, either or both of the two parties might decide to do a follow up.

Jeremiah had an interesting post about business cards and making them really personal (personalized that is, sorry Jeremiah) about the same time I was thinking of making or buying some wooden ones. I may still do that! But rather than cramming a bunch of information on them, I’m leaning towards my name and my LinkedIn profile URL (substitute your social site of choice) because what would really benefit me is to maintain that connection afterward. This would attempt to drive them to something that is less work than typing it all into Outlook. The same applies to me as well, I’d like to follow up with the least effort and a good URL works….as long as I’m playing the same social game that you are. If not, then we need plan B.

So, maybe I still need it all on the card. Or a simple side and a complicated side. As much as I appreciate the effort Jeremiah put into the cards (and I may do the same), not sure it matters. I read this article that down plays the marketing value and that fits with my focus on re-connecting – I will already have met them once. Will the card design help me remember them and encourage me to follow up? Maybe. Also ran across Moo.com that makes smaller business cards.

At a higher level, I struggle to keep track of the people I talked to that I already knew. I’ve thought of taking a picture of everyone I chat with, maybe with the cell phone or maybe with a small camera on a neck strap, then I’d have face and the name badge. Still a hack though. Seems like what we need is a cultural shift, if you talk to someone, swap cards – even if you know them.

That led to various wild ideas on how to make that happen. Can we sell business card vests with tons of pockets/slots so you can show how many people you’ve met? A business card bandolier? Or put them on a big key ring like you do your loyalty cards? Maybe cash them in for prize points? If the event provided all the cards we could bar code them, when you stopped at a scanner kiosk to scan them we could log the points there.

Driving behavior is always weird, not everyone appreciate its, though with networking I think making it acceptable to network is important. I've experimented with this some at the user group in Orlando and at SQLSaturday. At #16 I did a presentation and you know how it, everyone sitting quietly, not chatting with each other unless they already knew each other. At the beginning I asked them to introduce themselves to the person on their left and right (it was a networking presentation after all) and they immediately jumped in, the room filled with this great talking noise. As I watched it really felt like I had given them permission to network, to interact.

Lots of thoughts there, not sure how many are good. Comments and ideas would be appreciated!

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 3 September 2009

The bluetooth vcard thing seemed like a good idea, but it didn't catch on. I still like the idea of having some sort of SMS or Twitter-like app that allows me to send a message to connect to someone and their info links back to me.

There are a couple problems here. One is connecting, one is showing off who you've met. I think lots of people don't care about the latter, they just need a former.

Posted by jcrawf02 on 3 September 2009

I like the idea of printing 10-20 cards in the materials included, think that might help to remember where you met these people too (by including an event logo/info/headshot??). Plus, like you said if you incentivize swapping the cards for points of some sort, you're encouraging networking, even if just for fun. And to your point, you'd also be implicitly giving permission to network. Which would then likely make your event more memorable/useful for attendees.

Posted by Andy Warren on 3 September 2009

I'll keep working on it!

Posted by Barend Burger on 4 September 2009

Have you seen this concept yet http://www.poken.co.za awesome little device, you setup your relevant details, and when touched to another one, they exchange details.

Posted by Andy Warren on 4 September 2009

Had not looked at them but just did - interesting. More interesting if it would take off. First thought was that I hate to have one more thing to carry, but if it really replaced cards it would be a wash or better. I've never seen anyone with one. Might be interesting if there was a way to distribute them to all members of an event.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 4 September 2009

Barend,

That's an interesting concept.  Here's a U.S. site http://www.doyoupoken.com.  They are about $20.  I just wish there was a little more professional looking one.  Maybe PASS could get a custom logo.

It would be interesting if you could get a well-funded SQLSaturday to give them out.  IF you could get them at $10 for 200 or so then it's "only" $2000, do that instead of t-shirts?

Posted by Andy Warren on 4 September 2009

I sent them a note for a quote on 100 and 1000. Registered, one thing I did'nt like is that they want your LinkedIn password to verify it before adding to your profile. Not big on sharing passwords.

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