Still Carrying a Business Card? You Might Be a Walking Pop-Up Ad.

Why I don't carry business cards

After an event, I’m always surprised when I empty my pockets and find a dozen business cards that haphazardly made their way into every one of my pockets. At work, the top drawer of my desk has turned into business card graveyard; my dresser at home has become a kind of purgatory where I sort through the contacts I want to follow-up with and the throwaways that accidentally made their way into my pile; and my vehicle is a vast networking void where contacts get lost, found, and put in the center console only to get lost again.

Here’s the conundrum: I do care about meeting people and networking and forging non-zero sum relationships (win-win gain), I just don’t want your card to add any more clutter to my life.

Before an event I recently went to, I was surprised to find an old card I had put into my back pocket—the corners rounded with puffed white fibers on the ends after being washed and spun dry. The very next day, a co-worker pulled out a jacket he hadn’t worn in three years and found a business card safely tucked into a side pocket. That’s when it hit me.

This isn’t working. Traditional business cards are not effective. I need to develop a new system.

So, I did.

And.

It’s super easy.

When it comes time to exchange contact information, here’s what I say instead:

“I’d love to connect with you, but I’m really bad at keeping track of cards. They pile up and people get lost in between seats of my vehicle. I want to make sure I follow-up, do you mind if I take a picture of your card so I don’t lose it?”

Everyone says yes.

Most people I meet at events are not Millennials or Gen Z-ers. They’re older and still think their business cards are something to brag about.

I do get some confused glances and sideways looks. For some, I fit into their stereotype of a disheveled young person. If I feel tension, this one interaction lets me know if they are willing to adapt to a changing world, or if they are going to resist and stick to their beliefs until they retire.

What’s been happening more frequently is people are asking to do the same. I take out the one card I have in my wallet and let them snap a picture of my contact info with their smartphone. 

As I’ve been experimenting with my new networking idea, I’ve realized that the last thing you want to do is introduce yourself with a business card. You turn into a walking pop-up ad people can’t click out of and you leave them with useless data that’s hard to delete. It’s the equivalent of saying: “Hi stranger, here’s this gum-wrapper-sized piece of trash that I want you to hold onto for the next two hours… or days or weeks.”

When you reach for your business card to exchange contact information with someone, think about all the lost contacts you have floating around your workspace, home, kitchen counter, car, laptop bag, etc. Do you want your card—and more importantly, your information—to be another lost contact in the void of networking clutter?

 

PostScript

If someone has the time and skills to develop an app for filing pictures of business cards, let me know. I want to download it.

 

Andrew J. Wilt is the author of Age of Agility, a book that addresses the skill gap between school and work. He can be reached at Andrew.wilt@sustainableevolution.com and on Twitter @andrewjwilt