Career Coach: Card Games

With GDC coming up, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson discusses business card etiquette in her latest column.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

"Here, let me give you one of my cards. Now if you should want to call me, use this number, not that one. That's the old one." -- Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey, 1950

Yesterday I went to two business networking events. At the first one, when I asked Mike for his card, he said he had none, but he gave me his website address. I carry a small notebook so I wrote down the address. At the second meeting, mere seconds after meeting Pat, he produced a business card, and gave me a short business pitch.

Recently my friend Christine told me she planned to attend the Sundance Film Festival for two weeks and was going to bring 40 or 50 business cards. I told her for a festival or convention that she would need at least 10 cards a day and for14 days she would need at least 140 cards. She decided to bring 150 instead. (She was driving there so would not need any for the airport, or airplane.) When she returned from Sundance she reported that she had almost run out of cards -- she had two left.

This month, many of you will be attending the Game Developer's Conference, which is a great networking opportunity. Go equipped with the essential tools, including plenty of business cards. You'll be meeting people standing in line at registration, the job fair, on the bus, at the airport, on the show floor, in a classroom, etc. Cards are an inexpensive promotional tool for you, your services and your business. Bring more than you think you will need to any event. As long as your contact information does not change you can always use them at the next meeting or event you attend.

Though everyone is familiar with business cards, not everyone practices business card etiquette.

Engage the person in conversation for a bit before handing him or her your card. Pat failed to do this.

When someone gives you a business card, honor the gift as the Asians do, taking it in both hands and studying it for a moment. This also helps you to imprint the name of the person into your brain. You can also make a complimentary remark about the card if you like the design or logo. Prompt the giver into further conversation by remarking on his/her company name or job title. "Lance, how long have you been a screenwriter?"

Get a business card holder with two compartments to protect your card and those you receive. Keep your cards in one side and the cards you get in the other. It will keep you organized and you won't have to worry about handing someone else's card out by mistake. It also shows respect for the cards you receive.

Don't give business cards to people who don't ask for them. Don't put them in with bills you pay or drop them off on restaurant tables or include them with your tip for waiters. Don't distribute them indiscriminately.

Give only one business card to a new contact, unless they request more.  Keep the focus on that initial contact.  Giving more than one card to someone may give the signal that you want them to make contacts for you, which is tacky and unprofessional.

Exchange business cards smoothly. It's OK, to request a business card from someone you've just met. You should wait for the person to offer their card to you first, if the person is of a higher position than yourself. If they want you to have a card, they will give you one! Remember, as with all cards you receive, it is an invitation to follow up and start a relationship. 

If you have run out of cards and you have met someone you really want to stay in touch with, admit that you are out of cards and request a business card from him or her. If you really want to stay in touch, be sure to follow up as soon as you can.

The most important items you can collect at a conference, festival, or convention are contacts. So you have done well and you have collected a zillion cards at the recent conference you attended and diligently wrote notes on the backs of many of them. A business card sitting in a drawer or briefcase will not be of any benefit to you or the person who gave it to you. Now you need to follow up and put those new contacts into your data base, and then touch base with them and begin developing a relationship.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson brought plenty of cards with her on her recent speaking engagement at Savannah College of Art and Design, but has yet to follow up with most of the contacts she made. You can reach her for recruiting, speaking engagements, or career coaching at PamRecruit@q.com.

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