Episode 116: January 11, 2010
by Stever Robbins
I just got back from a conference.
I just love conferences! People there don't know me, so they think I'm really interesting. I can tell them about my lame job, using words like "synergistic" and "paradigm-changing," and they think I'm the best thing since sliced hotdog buns. And they listen! I stand so they can't quite squeeze by me, and they're my new friend forever, because, of course, I'm going to follow up with them. I get their business cards, and by the time the conference is over, I have 20-30 new friends, all in the form of little 2.5" by 3" pieces of cardboard. Life is good!
How Should You Store Business Cards at an Event?
Life didn't used to be good once I got home, though. Thirty business cards is a lot. They would pop out everywhere! Some in my coat pocket, a few in my briefcase, seven jammed in my notebook. Four inside my socks. Don't ask. And the one I cared about most, that one person who was going to change my self-esteem forever by hypnotically convincing me I look just like Tom Cruise, their card was ... somewhere. Somewhere else. I needed a system.
My first attempt was putting everyone's cards behind my nametag (which, if you've been paying attention, you'll remember goes on the right). That worked for a while, but 30 cards takes up way more space than a nametag. After my third wine cooler of the evening, I would turn my nametag upside down in a vain attempt to be the hilarious life of the party. The cards would spill everywhere. Then I saw Melvin eating a pastrami and brie sandwich. He brought it in a Ziploc bag. I pretended to be interested in hearing about his bird-watching expedition. While he was talking about the medicinal properties of the Colombian Flavescent Warbler he smuggled into the country, I discreetly pocketed the Ziploc.
Now at a conference, I keep the Ziploc bag in my hotel room. At the end of the day, all the business cards I've collected go straight into the bag, then I zip it shut so the cards can't escape. Once I'm home, they smell a bit like pastrami, and have a few brie stains, but they're basically good to go.
How to Organize Business Cards
Back home, you want to do something with the cards. Sticking them in piles around the room until you throw them out six years from now is not what I'm talking about. Sit down with your cards while people are still fresh in your mind. Grab the cards of the people you know you'll call often. Type them into your online address book. In the notes field, jot down the name of the conference and what you talked about. Now you can find them by easily searching your address book. You'll have their number at your fingertips if you need to boost your self-esteem with a quick hypnotic Tom Cruise delusion.
Quick and dirty hint: I type the name of the conference once, then copy it to my clipboard with control-C on Windows or command-C on the Mac. Then I just paste the conference name with a single control-or-commend V when I'm entering the next card.
Organize Business Cards by Scanning Them
Just between you and me, most of the cards you get, you'll never follow up on. Aardvark wrangler? There's just no need, so don't bother typing them all in. Just scan them for future reference.
Grab an 8.5"x11" piece of paper. Starting at the bottom of the paper, tape two cards side by side on the paper. Only tape the top edges, though, so you can flip the cards up using the tape as a hinge to see the back if needed. Jot notes about the person just below their card, or on the back of the cards. Then tape two cards above those two, so the bottom edges of the two new cards are slightly above the top edges of the first cards you taped. Repeat this until you run out of cards, or until you have only about four inches of blank space left at the top of the sheet. Continue on another sheet if needed. Along the edge of the sheet, write the name of the conference.
Save the scanned business card images in a file with a descriptive title that includes the name of the conference and date.
Now you can scan this entire sheet into your scanner at once. If you have a flatbed scanner, just lay it down and scan. Otherwise, you may need to get a transparent page protector and slip the page inside that so it can feed through your scanner without jamming. Once you've scanned the front of the cards, flip all the cards over, hinging at the tape, and scan the backs of the cards. Save the scanned images in a file with a descriptive title that includes the conference and date. For example, "Better Living Through Hypnosis Conference, January 2010."
Use Special Business Card Scanning Systems
For several hundred dollars, you can buy systems like CardScan, NeatScan, or SnapScan that scan business cards and use magical optical character recognition to convert them into address book entries. After scanning cards, you must compare the text with the original cards to make sure the characters came in correctly. Sometimes mistakes creep in if the elves inside the device were up too late partying. That's why the scanners are so expensive; elves drink a lot of mead.
Now you have a permanent record of everyone from the conference. The people you're likely to contact are in your address book, and the rest are preserved forever, their souls captured electronically in your scanned business card sheets. Throw away the original cards--or since they're neatly taped on standard-sized paper, you can file them neatly in a file folder.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
http://www.steverrobbins.com/getitdoneguy/116-organize-your-business-cards.htm - Picture of a completed business card sheet
http://getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com/successful-networking.aspx - Successful networking episode
http://www.mangoverde.com/wbg/spec/spec199-110.html - Must-have information about the flavescent warbler