Call me old school if you want, but I still love to exchange business cards – especially in an event setting. For me, it’s the start of a fast, proven & scalable system that helps me more consistently follow-up, stay in touch and ultimately convert more of those new contacts into partners, referral sources, customers and more.

Of course, feeding your network isn’t all about conversion. It starts and ends with adding value, not knowing right away where specific business might come from.

Conferences are a great way to forge new connections and exchange business cards to build a quality network. And without a strategy, those cards might stay wadded up in the bottom of your laptop bag indefinitely. Here’s some detail on the process I use to convert those cards into an active network and pipeline.

  • Ask for a business card from anyone you meet: Let them know you use these as a reminder to follow-up. If they don’t have a card, use one of yours to write their contact information down.
  • Take photos of name badges: Another option if they don’t have a card is to take a quick smartphone photo of their name badge. At minimum you can use this to remember and find them on LinkedIn later.
  • Take notes on biz cards as reminders: What did you talk about? What did you promise to send them or follow-up with? Take notes on cards that can be triaged later.
  • Collect them in one place: This is important so that no card is left behind. I wear a sportcoat or suit jacket every day during events, so there’s a specific pocket I use to collect cards (geeky I know but it works). I’d encourage you to do the same – somewhere in your laptop bag, a specific corner of your purse, whatever works.
  • Process them on the flight home: Working through business cards is a high priority for me on the flight home. I’m typically behind on other work as well, but time is of the essence on those new relationships and follow-ups. The faster I follow-up, the more likely I can continue the momentum of the conversation into something more meaningful sooner than later.
  • Have a specific “processing” checklist: For me, this includes connecting on LinkedIn with a customized message, adding them to my newsletter list, adding them to CRM, and following up with whatever deliverable I promised (sending a copy of an ebook, making an introduction, whatever). I typically batch these activities, such that I’m doing the LinkedIn and deliverable follow-up first, then the CRM and newsletter integration last.
  • Set a reminder to review the business cards again in two weeks: This can be done in your office, and is a quick reminder to follow-up on any loose ends from your initial outbound connections on that flight home.

This sequence of course is just the start, but it’s the most important part to activate initial conversations and business card exchanges into more meaningful business relationships.

Curious if you have a similar process or system, and what that might include…..