One of the fun aspects about writing conferences is “card swaps”. By now, you’ve arrived home with a pile of business cards, and most, if you were a friendly attendee, no longer have your face at the front.
A. Do you head to the nearest waste bin and deposit these in hopes to clean house?
B. Do you glance through them to remember a face or two for the next conference and then resort to A?
C. Do you stash the pile in a binder with some semi-organization skills and add it to your bookshelves?
D. Or do you utilize these business cards and the information each contains to grow your platform?
You guessed it! Letter D is the best choice.
Once you arrive home from a conference, take these business cards and organize them however you see fit. Then, one by one, go through each priceless piece of cardstock. What information has the contact provided for you?
Social media links? Go follow them asap! Maybe even message the contact (esp. if they’re a fellow author and you spent time with them at the conference). Tell them why you enjoyed meeting. Don’t spam your new found friends. One message is enough unless they seem to reciprocate. Use wisdom and stroke the relationship with care.
Avoid messaging conference staff. If you received a card from an agent or your workshop’s speaker, use it appropriately. Follow their website’s blog. Comment or like their posts on social media, but use the contact information for submitting a proposal or other item requested at the conference.
If social media links aren’t provided on a card, search for the fellow attendee by name. Sometimes you’ll find their page on Twitter or Facebook even though it wasn’t listed. This shows initiative on your part and is a great way to build relationships.
Once you’ve done all you can with the card on social media, you may consider adding the email and phone to your contacts. Do not abuse this privilege. Don’t spam your contact by adding them to your email list. They probably already receive multiple emails from fellow writers each day. If you wish to increase your email list, send one request to add them. But it’s best to ask permission first. Don’t lose a contact out of empty conceit.
Similarly, the phone number can be used to maintain contact with the writers I’ve spent the most time with at conference. I may use these numbers to make sure the other writer made it home safely or to discuss working on a critique together. This is usually planned in advance at the conference. It comes naturally. If it seems awkward or bizarre to contact a fellow writer by phone, I probably didn’t invest enough time with them. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time for bravery, but weigh your risks. That doesn’t mean I can’t save the number for that just-in-case moment in the future. It just means acquiring someone’s information is a privilege, and I need to use it with respect.
Don’t you love the “card swap” at conferences? It’s fun to meet fellow writers and learn from each other, just don’t let it stop when you walk from the parking lot on the last day. Take the initiative to make the most of your contacts. Let them know you valued time at their side, and maybe just maybe, advance that relationship just a step further. In this industry, you never know where one contact will lead. Value the faces you meet.