OK, I have to put my hands up and admit my guilt. I made what many people tell me is the number one mistake when networking. And I did it in style.
On my way to the airport for my speaking trip in Vietnam last week I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to pack something. My suit, belt, shirts and shoes were all in place. Cufflinks at the ready. I had my passport and my tickets, my hotel booking and my travel insurance.
Everything was in place but one….my business cards!
I scrambled around in my passport holder and my wallet and found nine cards in total. That’s all I had for a trip to Asia complete with two speaking engagements, a gala dinner and a series of meetings. What a disaster when I was going there to speak about effective networking.
Fortunately, when people have told me in the past that not having business cards is the cardinal sin (pun unintended) for networkers, I have always disagreed with them. It is good to have a business card when people ask for it, for sure, but it is far worse not to ask for someone’s card when you want to follow up with them.
Give your card away and not ask for one back, and you cede control of the conversation.
Having said that, the last place you’d want to not have your cards available is Asia, where people pass them to each other at the beginning of a conversation out of courtesy. Explaining my predicament was very embarrassing, but I did so politely and promised in every case to send on my details by email. Which I did as soon as possible.
And that’s the key. If you don’t have cards for any reason, ask for those of people you’d like to keep in touch with and make sure you follow up promptly.
Of course, my client told me at the end of my visit that I should have sent him the artwork and he would have printed cards for my arrival! That would certainly have helped.