Clean Up Those Cards

If you are anything like me, you came home from the recent ACS meeting with a stack of business cards collected over the week in Salt Lake City. With some of them, just glancing at the card instantly brought up the memory of who they represented, where I had met them and what we talked about. With others, I had been smart enough to jot a few words on the back of the card that reminded me of the person.

But once you have the stack of cards back home, what do you do with them?

You could leave them in a pile on your desk, collecting dust, until they get “accidentally” thrown away. You could put them in a drawer, or a other filing system, and trust that you will remember where to find the card for the guy you talked to at the YCC party, who worked for that instrument company…..what was its name?

Or, you could enter the data into your addresss book. Enter not only the name, company, and contact info, but in a comment field include where you met them (“ACS Spring 2009 SLC”, for example), what you talked about, and anything special you learned about that person. Their work area, hobbies, kids, volunteer role with ACS, or anything else you learned about them during your interaction. All those little details that you recall so easily now will fade with time, so the sooner you get them down on paper (or in silicon), the better.

Several of the cards I have collected at this meeting are memorable in their own right. I noticed many more are starting to use color, which does make the cards look more professional and less homemade. As the cost of color printing, and printing in general, continues to decline, this is going to become almost a requirement. One of the cards had a list on the back of “5 Things To Remember About Christin” – a great way for her to summarize what makes her stand out from every other chemistry graduate student at the meeting. Another card was from a chemist/author, and included a picture of the cover of his book. Instantly recognizable, very memorable, and I knew exactly what his interests were by the title of the book.

Now might be a good time to take a few minutes and critically evaluate your own business cards, and make sure they reflect the image you want to convey.

Does your name stand out?

Are the fonts clean and large enough to read?

Is there a professional logo or image?

Is there enough white space for both layout clarity and for the recipient to write notes?

Does the card feel nice, with a high quality, thick paper?

Would judicious use of color or an image make it stand out more?

Whether it’s your card or someone else’s, the information on it only matters if it is in a usable format. Suppose in a few months you meet someone and they mention they are thinking about making a career change into public policy. Will you be able to do a quick search of your electronic rolodex and and pull out the name of the person you met at the last ACS national meeting who has done just that, and might be able to provide advice for your new contact? Or will you have to look at the pile of dusty cards on your desk and say “I think I might know someone ….”

This article was written by scientific communication consultant Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants, and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006).

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