These tips should help you understand why this exchange is necessary (unless you’re going paperless and using electronic contact interchanges) and how to follow through to make significant relationships from that tiny piece of networking gold.
- The networking game officially begins when you pass your card to someone and receive one in return, so make this a meaningful exchange. Never just toss your card at someone, stick it in their pocket and/or receive one without looking at it and commenting. Stop to read the other person’s name and information. Doing so should lead to continued dialogue for both of you, which will help cement your new-found relationship.
- Handle and present your card with care. Proper etiquette says it should be gripped with both thumb and index finger and presented so that the recipient can see your information facing them. This is an impressive, respectful way that calls attention to the meaning behind exchanging contact information, something that people should take seriously in this day and age.
- Make sure your information is up to date and correct. The minute you have a change in job title, phone or contact information, you need to get new cards and chuck the old ones. Explaining to people that your job changed four months ago but you just haven’t had the time to deal with it says you really don’t care whether they have the correct information. So, you have no one else to blame when that contract is issued with incorrect details.
- It’s OK to make notes on the back of someone’s card (i.e., met in hotel lobby, wore a red suit) but best if you do so when you’re back in the privacy of your hotel room or office. Those notes will help you remember that person and craft a more personal response when you next communicate (“I know we were on the run in the hotel lobby last week but …”)
- Do something – anything – with that card when you return to your office, and do it quickly. If you hope to continue talking, reach out right away. If the conversation was left in your hands to follow up, do so as soon as possible, and then make sure to transfer the contact info into your system, whatever your choice of PDA, so it’s done. Then you can dispose of the card or file it in whatever system you’ve established, and be done with it.
Finally, our best-practice tip: Always make sure you carry plenty of your own cards. In the business world it’s a simple but meaningful gesture that can determine your level of professionalism from the moment you meet someone.