EXPO GAMES: How to keep new connections from conferences straight

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I used to hand out business cards at events and conferences. I used to have like five different kinds, and you’d get the “right” one based on our conversation. Talk about making things unnecessarily complicated.

But handing out business cards doesn’t lead to that many business conversions, social media connections or even blog subscribers. So I stopped carrying business cards completely. I quit cold turkey. I had way too many versions at one point, anyway. LOL.

This hit me hard when these two unrelated conversations on different continents happened:

  • “Your healthcare content marketing services sound intriguing. If you give me your card, I’ll send you a note.”
  • “I enjoyed your talk. Would you consider speaking in Munich? Give me your card, and I’ll follow up.”

Neither followed up. And I get that maybe they just changed their minds. It’s possible, though, both came up to me to start the conversation. But had they given me their cards instead, I could have followed up. But instead, I didn’t even know who they were.

Related: How to make the most out of business trips

Or they did with business cards what many of us do: Throw them in their laptop bags and find them again when they pack for that same conference the following year. Whose card is this again? Ha.

So I stopped handing out cards. I completely stopped even taking them with me. But that doesn’t mean I stopped connecting.

I then took other people’s business cards and immediately move their contact info to my phone, either through a photo or by emailing it to somebody else to follow up later. It’s just easier and actually sets the connection up for potential success.

But then one person came up to me at a conference and said he didn’t have a business card on him, either. He was about to write down his email on a piece of paper (but couldn’t find one – or a pen), when he stopped and said: “Why don’t you just send me a quick email from your phone?”

Related: How to live tweet from a conference 

He actually wanted some specific information that was included in a blog post on this site. So I just grabbed the link and emailed it to him. Done.

He later came back over and said: “I was just reading your site and have a question …”

Awesome! That would have never happened if all follow-ups were saved for later. Later easily becomes never.

In-the-moment communication is easy enough today. There’s no reason to use old school tactics when new school tactics are more efficient.

Related: How online and offline connect

That’s not always the case. But it is in this case. Save a tree and get more leads. Something like that.

How to immediately connect on LinkedIn using the Bluetooth function

So you are meeting with somebody. Open the app. Click on the people icon in the lower bar:

Then on this screen click FIND NEARBY in the top bar.

You’ll get this screen and may have to allow Bluetooth access:

Others who are nearby AND on that page will appear there and you can easily connect. Super easy!

How to digitize business cards collected at conferences quickly

I used that tactic above for two years and it worked. As long as I followed up quickly. Or connected quickly with people on LinkedIn.

And sometimes I quickly lost cards, too. Ugh. So I looked for technology solutions.

Adobe Scan

I tried this after I saw an Adobe friend tweet about it. You can easily scan a business card as a PDF, then click “save as contact” and the app tries to convert the info into a contacts entry. My card didn’t work perfectly, but just a simple edit was needed:

I’m guessing it was the lighting.

In the notes you can add more info about people so you can follow up as appropriately and relevant as possible.

Cam Card

The Cam Card is similar to Adobe Scan:

Not sure which one I like better, but I will try them at upcoming conferences.

How not to follow up after conferences

The note field in the apps can be used for information that will help us remember who that person is and how we should follow up – or if at all.

Most connections happen quickly at conferences and it can be easy to forget details.

Then later follow up from within the app.

The worst follow ups are the ones that are generic and everyone gets the same thing:

Thanks for stopping by our booth.

I hope you enjoyed the show.

Etc., etc.

If it wasn’t about making personal connections why did we go in the first place? Don’t ruin a good personal connection by terrible impersonal follow up.

These apps can help. Or just scribble some notes on the back of paper cards.

But, please stay relevant and personal.

This was first written in early 2017 and updated in June and October 2018.