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What is the best way to manage the business cards and contact information that I receive at a conference?
Vice President for Programs
Women in Aerospace
It is very difficult to manage all of the business cards and follow up that is required after a conference. Most people that I know, especially those that attend a lot of conferences and networking functions, have little piles of business cards on their desks that began with good intentions, but are now ignored – or they get filed without action. Over the years, I have tried different methods of managing business cards, with varied amounts of success and have finally found a method that works well – I find it liberating!
I followed these steps:
1. Invested in a card-scanning app for my mobile phone. I choose WorldCard Mobile because it had good reviews. I am not endorsing the product and it works with varying degrees of accuracy.
2. Scanned my cards before I got home from the conference. During this trip, I received 110 new cards and was able to scan them all during breaks at the conference, at the airport lounge, and on the airplane. It was a bit of an effort and required some discipline.
3. Was selective about the information collected: Name, Position, Company, and email address only. All other information I ignored because I hardly ever use it. Also, the scanning software was more accurate with this information because it is usually prominently displayed on the cards. If I had corrected addresses, etc, I would not have finished before I got home and I probably would have given up.
4. The first business day back, I sync’d the phone with the computer and sorted the physical cards by priority. I do not have any actions for people that do not give me a business card unless they email their details afterwards.
5. Sent thank you notes/emails to the people that attended my seminar, to the panel from my talk at the conference, and to the organisers.
6. Sent quasi-generic emails to all of the contacts that I do not intend on contacting regularly. The email was easily customized with a few words and personally addressed. Then I filed the cards. First 100 done!
7. Worked through the 10-15 high priority contacts. These take more time and I am adding their full contact details to the database. They get my full attention and follow-up.
I feel liberated because there is no pile of cards sitting on my desk awaiting my attention. Because all of the email addresses were waiting in my address book, I have followed up all my new contacts within two days. The best part is that I was able to spend my first days back sending follow-up emails, not trying to enter contact data.
Now I am busy following-up and turning the best new contacts into relationships.
I hope you can make use of these tips and adapt them to your own system.
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