Why I Don't Carry Business Cards to Networking Events

Last week, I attended my first networking event in 2018.

I was mid-conversation with a woman (let’s call her Sue), when someone standing to the side patiently waiting to interrupt.  I say "interrupt" because he was eager fiddling with his business card, holding it out before we’ve even had a chance to say hello.


“So, what do you do,” he asks, as he hands over his business card.

“Hi, I’m Janice. This is Sue and we’re both newbies to this event like you,” I responded, pointing to the green sticker signaling ‘newbie’ to this particular event.

“Where’s your business card?”

“Oh, I don’t carry them with me,” I responded as I hesitantly took his card.

“Whaaaat? This is a networking event, why don’t you have those?”  

I got a look of disappointment from him - as if I broke the cardinal rule of networking and should be ashamed of myself.


After an exchange that maybe lasted another minute or two, he walked away, another business card in hand seeking his next potential receiver. Sue and I resumed our conversation. 


I had a wonderful experience at this networking event, with just that one interesting encounter.  We all know about networking and why it’s important.  Some know how to network better than others and many have different reasons for why they do it.


I went live on FB to talk about my reasons to network.  Click to watch the short video here:


So, why don’t I bring business cards to networking events? Do I have them, yes! Do I ever hand them out, yes!  This time, I chose not to.


If you’re like me, you probably have a corner in your drawer that has a bunch of people's business cards piled up.  Or if you are tech advanced, and have uploaded them to some file.

But let me ask you this, of those stack of cards, how many have you genuinely connected with?

If you have connected with them all (or most, or even half) - AWESOMESAUCE.  If not, don’t feel bad, I can honestly say, maybe 1 out of 4?


With that ration in mind, my decision to not hand out business cards was deliberate.  In the two hours we had at the event, I wanted to have quality conversations -  not go through hit and run introductions, with superficial chit chat as if I were speed dating. 


My goal that evening, was quality conversations and only collect business cards if:

1)    I can be of service to a need they have. 

2)    I can pass their contact information to someone who is not in attendance at the event.


That night, I did just that, collecting business cards from those I truly wanted to connect with so we could follow up on our conversations. I even played match-maker and connected a retreat host to an attorney that was looking for a legal advice presenter, a real estate agent with someone focuses on new builds and a loan officer to someone who was looking to be a speaker.   The fun part, is I met all of them that night!


In the end, my decision was all about self-preservation.  The purpose of the event was to network, but the purpose of networking is making valuable connections.  Why spend my time and energy where it's not necessary?  Of course I wanted to connect (part of my intention words for 2018), but in a meaningful way.  In a way that we can mutually serve each other.


On some occasions, I found myself responding, “What is it that you need?” when someone asked me, “What do you do?”   This opened up our conversations to more meaningful and purposeful discussions.  If there was no match, we politely moved on.


This method has served me far greater than my then networking style of "collect as many business cards as you can because you never know" method. Maybe it's not as easy, because connecting on that deeper level takes effort and can even require you to be a bit vulnerable... but you reap what you sow. 


In fact, I’ve already got three follow up meetings just from that night, and Sue and I have plans to collaborate on an upcoming project. 


I would love to hear from you!

What are some of your tricks, tips or methods you use for successful networking?


Janice Tanaka