On business cards (or, why I don’t use Hashable),

published at 11:05am on 05/24/11

Business Cards Aplenty

“Well, that was a Hashable fail,” he said, as we sat around the table, exchanging business cards.

This was, ostensibly, a meeting of people from various parts of the New York tech scene, and we were exchanging little piece of paper with our contact information on them. There were smart phones galore on the table next to our lunches, laptops tucked into bags and iPads at the ready. And yet “let me give you my card” was the phrase most heard as people were packing up to leave.

But I have a confession to make: I like business cards.

Really. While I have finally made the transition from paper calendar to one stored in my phone and on the web, I continue to prefer to carry away from meetings actual physical representations of the people that I have just met. For me, the card carries not only a person’s contact info, but it also gives me a little bit of insight into their personality (or the personality of their company), and it serves as a tangible reminder of the actual, physical, meeting. If I look at the card when I first get it into my hands, and then look at the person who gave it to me, I’ll have a much better chance of remembering the circumstances under which I got it in the first place.

So what actually happens after you hand me a business card?

Step 1. Acquire the card. This step is actually more important than you might first imagine. I always look at the card that I’m receiving so I have a sense of it for when I retrieve it later. The whole point of getting the card is so you can follow-up with the person later, so I try to associate the person with the card. I might even take write a note directly on the card immediately (more on that later).

Step 2. Store the card. Put all of the cards you receive at one time in the same place. This could be a slot in your wallet, or your own business card case, or your shirt pocket. The trick is to keep all of the cards from the same event in the same place, so when you retrieve them, you do them all at once. Far too many times I’ve stuck cards in pants pockets and shirt pockets and notebooks, only to forget at what event I actually received that card, or worse yet, who it was actually from and why I should care. If you’re at a conference, your conference badge holder is a nice place to store everything until it’s time to process.

Step 3. Capture the information on the card. If I actually want to correspond with you in the future, the first thing I do is take a pen and write on the back of your card the date that I met you, the circumstances under which we met, and any other information that I might remember. What we were talking about. What I told you I was going to do when I followed up with you. What your next vacation is going to be. Physical characteristics that might be relevant. What I’m doing here is capturing as much as I can, again in a physical way. By writing it on the card itself, I am making a direct connection between the conversation we had and the actual object that you handed me.

Pro tip: if the card you’re writing on is one of those glossy cards that refuses to take ink, just tear off the top layer of the card to reveal actual writable paper below. If it’s one of those plastic business cards, you’re out of luck.

Step 4. Transfer the information from the business card to my address book. Now this step might seem redundant (or more to the point, the previous step might seem redundant), but for me, the act of writing down the details on the card in Step 3 is a physical memory aid, and it’s very quick – just a few notes. Transferring that data to the computer serves to reinforce the things that I just wrote (the act of reading and then typing it into the computer should help me remember things better), it brings the relevant contact information into an easily retrievable spot, and it means that the information I’ve written in Step 3 is now easily searchable. Not everyone makes it into my address book and by making it a 2-step process, I have the data captured on the card itself in case I decided that I need it for future reference while not cluttering up my personal contact list.

Step 5. Store the cards. I do not have step down at all. All of the cards that I collect are in piles around my desk, roughly grouped chronologically, and sometimes tied together with a rubber band. Please, if you have found a good card storage solution, let me know.

And that’s it. At the end of the process I’ve fixed in my mind and my computer our meeting and your details details in a way that I just haven’t found possible in a purely electronic system.

Filed under: Productivity, Technology

At 12:02 am on 05.25.11, mk said,

I too am a business card collector. I love the feel of the paper and I always look at the choice of colors and graphics which seem to reflect the person giving the card. I always date the card and do write notes on the back of the card to remind me what we discussed and what the person was wearing. That is always a good trigger for me to remember the person for future reference.

My brain works in detailed categories and I store my business cards the same way: I picked up a small file box from staples and bought manila tabs by the 100. I’ve categorized my cards in detail and by subject i.e. gift show vendors, magazine home editors vs magazine beauty editors, mutual friends etc…

Leave a Reply: