By Andy Lopata
As we rapidly approach Christmas the tills are buzzing in card shops all over the country and post bags become full of Christmas cards. It is still common practice to send cards to suppliers, clients and other business contacts as well as family and friends but is the practice of collecting and handing out business cards to all people we make contact with at networking events a sensible practice to adopt?
In the early days of BRX we would start launch meetings of new groups with an ice breaker. Everyone present would have a few minutes to meet, and exchange business cards with, as many other people as possible. The people who had collected the most cards would be considered to be the winners and we presented them with a nice branded business card holder.
I soon stopped the practice when I realised that it sent out all of the wrong messages. After all, is there anything worse in networking events than people who run around like crazy trying to pass out and collect as many cards as they possibly can, never stopping to engage in conversation or find out something about anyone else in the room?
Somebody told me about an event she attended where the same ice breaker was employed. Unimpressed, she decided to remain in her seat rather than join in with the game. The person who had been sitting next to her handed her his card before leaving to distribute his cards more widely. A couple of minutes later he came up to her and tried to pass his card across again. He had completely forgotten that they had already spoken and exchanged cards!
To me, an exchange of business cards should put the seal on a conversation, as a signal of the intent to build on the initial interaction. The example above shows the flipside, collecting cards without any meaningful interaction has the same benefits as picking names from the phone book.
The winner at networking events is the person pursuing conversations, not cards.
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