Modern Rolodex

As a reporter, sources were key to my success. In public relations, it’s all about networking. Either way, business cards are the lifeblood of communicators.

20141029_112515I miss the days of my big round Rolodex. I could spin it and find anyone at my fingertips.

Yes, I know I can store and search for contacts using electronic contacts or LinkedIn. For me, though, there is a difference – I can no longer see the business card. Sometimes I forget the person’s name, but I can clearly recall the logo or image on the business card.

One of my contacts has his image artfully drawn on it. I can forget his name, but I don’t forget the card. Or I’ll recall that you work at Ohio State University, but, again, I can’t remember your name. I spin the Rolodex and suddenly I see the Ohio State logo. I’ve found you.

So without the Rolodex, I’ve struggled. Until recently. That’s when I heard Jill Chappell say, “I get paid for my Rolodex, so it is really important that I know who these people are.”

She calls herself a professional stalker, but in actuality she books interviews for Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

When she files a person’s name and details, she puts a key word under the company name. That key word helps her remember what she needs to know about a person. If she has met a doctor who treated Ebola, she puts the word Ebola in the company name. When she searches for Ebola, the doctor’s name appears. She includes other critical details, including company name, in the notes section.

I’ve totally embraced this idea. Everyone I met at a recent conference is now listed in my contacts under the same company name – that of the conference.

Thanks for a genius idea Jill!

5 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference

Business cards

Don’t just collect business cards. Follow up with the people you have met following the conference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Bring Business Cards. A conference is a great opportunity to network. You will want to have business cards to distribute so when you meet someone they will have your name, title and contact details. When I receive someone’s business card, I jot a few notes on the card so I can remember our conversation when I return to my office. Also, if I’ve promised to send or share information I make a note of it so that I can do so. I also send LinkedIn requests so additional networking can occur online.

Review the Schedule. Before the conference begins take some time to review the schedule and speaker bios. Highlight the sessions that you want to attend and make sure that the title aligns with the session description so you aren’t disappointed. Make note of any speakers with whom you would like to have a conversation. I’ve switched sessions after reading a speaker’s bio and realizing they were speaking on a topic that would resonate with me.

Branch Out. When there are meals or networking opportunities, make an effort to sit with individuals with whom you don’t know. Speaking to strangers isn’t always easy, but at a conference you have a good opening for a conversation. Ask why they are attending and what they hope to gain from the conference. Share your reasons for being there.

Build in Down Time. Conferences can be exhausting. Networking is hard work. Sleeping in a strange bed can be a challenge. Keeping up with the office creates challenges. While it’s admirable to want to attend every session and network to all hours, you also need to take care of yourself. Be sure to give yourself some down time if you need it.

Schedule Follow-Up. Following a conference, I’m always reengaged. I have great plans to meet with colleagues and continue the conversations. I schedule the lunches, coffees and phone calls within the first two weeks back; otherwise, I get too caught up in the minutia of my job. If I have follow-up assignments, I try to complete them within a week of returning, if possible.

Business Cards Tell a Story

I don’t know about you, but I don’t use a Rolodex any more. All of my contacts are stored in Outlook and LinkedIn.

It’s handy because the information is always with me. What’s not so handy is that I often have difficulties remembering a name or a company. But I can remember the color of the business card or the unique graphic. When I had my Rolodex, I would simply twirl it until I saw the color or the graphic and then I could locate the information I needed.

So how do you make your business card memorable? I was in a meeting this past week with Lynn Parker of Parker LePla, which according to its website provides “brand strategy that spans your organization, your communication and the web.”

Lynn Parker's business card begins as a square... (Courtesy of Parker LePla)

I won’t forget Lynn’s business card. I also won’t forget the name of her company or Lynn herself because of how she presented her business card to me.

Instead of simply handing me a card or sliding it down the table, she came over to me and before handing me her card, she began to fold the 3-3/4-inch square. By the time she was finished, it resembled a multi-colored fish, specifically a koi.

“Cards are evolving. It’s really about what you do when you hand the person your card,” Lynn said to me. As she folded the card, she told me about how her firm and what it offers. She also told me that it has a koi pond in the middle of the office.

I won’t forget that and as Lynn noted, “That’s the power of telling a story.”

... and ends as a koi.

Her firm chose the unique approach to business cards for a simple reason. ““We’re all about helping our clients have brand defining experiences,” she said, “so we wanted our card to be a brand defining experience.”

Does your business card tell a story?



Business Cards Still Part of Doing Business

Business cards are changing, but they still play a role in business.

One of my laments is that I take all of the information from a card and enter it into my contacts. But I don’t have a visual of the card, and often, months – and sometimes years – later it’s the look of the card I remember. In the “old days” I had a giant Rolodex and I would flip the wheel scanning until I found the image I remembered from the card. At that point, I was able to recall the person and have all of the data at my fingertips.

I haven’t done that for years, and sometimes it’s frustrating. Today, though, you scan cards, add QR codes or bump. Technology is changing business cards, but not eliminating them.  

I’ve heard some people say they don’t even bother with business cards because they can search and find the person through LinkedIn, Facebook or other digital means. I’d still prefer to collect your card. When I meet a person, I associate the name and face with the card. I always write a note on the back of the card telling me how I met the person or if they requested something of me. That way when I get back to the office I can follow-up. This is especially useful at conferences where I may collect dozens of cards.

The other week I ran into Kevin Flores of The Flores Shop, a branding, marketing and design firm with which I had worked. His business card definitely stood out and I had to ask him about it (09037_TFS_B Card FLO front).

“The thought behind our business card design (and the ones we design for our clients) is to provide only the essential information about each individual while portraying the brand essence or cultural personality of the company,” Kevin says. “Our company culture is innovative, creative and playful. You see, we’re a boutique design shop who works with big name clients when they need some über-creative mojo. And, even if someone ONLY saw our business cards, they would get some sense of that brand persona.”

He still sees business cards as valuable. “There is a sense of professionalism that comes with presenting your business card,” he says. “It legitimizes your company and/or position to the person receiving it.”

Kevin prefers to hand a contact two business cards. “This has paid dividends in the past as my networking contacts have passed along one of the cards they had to other associates who were seeking services that we offer.”  

When it gets right down to it, Kevin says the business card is the way to seal the deal. If you’ve met the big client at a networking event, you want the client to remember your card. And that’s why his firm’s cards are so memorable.

What does your business card say about you and your company?