decided to write this post after I read “Network Better Without Business Cards”, where the lady says that she is more successful in networking if she doesn’t give away business cards but ask for the emails addresses and send an email a few days later to the interested parties (I call it “follow up”). This way she target only people really interested in what she has. Fair enough and right to do in a world where people are not afraid to express their interests or you understand from their politeness if they are really interested or not. That for sure does not apply in Dubai.
For the past 3 years, I have attended regularly at least 2 networking events every month. As Dubai is a melting pot I made contact with many different nationalities. I can say with much regret that 90% of the persons I met have no idea what networking means and what to expect from it.
First of all, they hand in the business card even before they start telling you about their business and check if you are interested or not. Oh, I forgot, here we don’t say NO. So you take the business card and look interested. I read once on another blog, a woman said that she was always wearing a jacket with pockets: in the right pockets she kept the “interesting” cards and in the left one the ones that would go to the bin with the first occasion. I don’t wear jackets so I have a small card box where I keep the interesting ones and the rest I just put them in my bag so I can dispose of them immediately.
Then here, I can say we have 2 categories: “interested” people and “rude” people (I’m talking about the 90%, please keep that in mind).
The “interested” ones are those who ask for more details, definitely they would like to meet to find out more and discuss new opportunities. Don’t get too excited, they won’t answer to your emails or phone calls. The “rude” people will start looking over your shoulder immediately after they finished their elevator pitch and you start yours, targeting a new “victim”. Once, a woman asked me in the middle of my pitch if I liked the sandwiches served at the event. I told her they are fantastic and should go and get more. After all, that’s why she was there for, right?
I also stopped giving my business cards easily and I had 2 reasons for this. First, because I spend money on them and I don’t want to throw money to people that are not interested. Second, I found myself subscribed to newsletters I had no interest for and I had to spend time to unsubscribe. And that’s because people don’t know what to do with the data got at a networking event. The right thing to do, in my opinion, is to send a follow up email, reminding the person who you are, and give the option to subscribe.
How do I network now? With as little business cards as possible. I just don’t give them if I don’t really see people are interested. I keep them in my bag and if I’m asked I say that I will give one as soon as I have my hands free. I usually have a cup of coffee to keep my hands busy. Meanwhile, I carry on the conversation and see if the persons are truly interested or not. And I try to arrange meetings that will be later confirmed by email. Here, I want to give another example of strange behavior: I was telling to a nutritionist that I want to make a team that includes a beautician, a nutritionist, a make-up artist, a fitness instructor and a personal shopper to put up a package together. She was over the moon about the idea and said that we should talk at the end of the event to set up a meeting for the next day. I agreed and I continued my networking. At the end, she left without even saying good-bye, let alone setting up a meeting.
And because I started my blog post from “Network Better Without Business Cards”, I would like to make a few comments about the author’s reasons to consider that this method gives you an “advantageous opportunity”. She says the following:
“If you take this approach, you have an advantageous opportunity for three reasons:
You have permission to contact people.
You don’t have to wonder if they’ll remember you.
You can send them something to truly impress them”
“You have permission to contact people”. By all means, once you have the business card of course you have permission to contact that person. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have the card in the first place.
“You don’t have to wonder if they’ll remember you”. It’s not something extreme not to have business cards and in my opinion can create a bad image as a not professional person: coming to network without business cards. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll be outstanding in a good way without business cards.
“You can send them something to truly impress them”. Yes, this is called follow-up, a very important part of networking but one that people neglect or doing it wrong. You can read a previous post of mine regarding a guy whose “follow up” determined me not to give him business (Follow up for the sake of it). So, sending later by email something to truly impress them is highly recommended and you can do that even if business card exchange is involved.
I conclusion, I don’t think that having or not having business cards will make the networking better. What it matters is people’s approach and what they want to achieve: to make contacts and seek opportunities or to push and collect business cards.