I encountered an interesting innovation this week. I was at MIT to hear Nicholas Carr, one of my favorite writers/bloggers/thinkers about technology, speak. While people were gathering and chatting before the presentation, I met a few people and we exchanged business cards. One of the attendees shared with me his business card, and it was unique. Not just unique in the "I've never seen that before" kind of way (although it was), but unique in the "tailored precisely for this event" way.
The typical business card I encounter typically has the following elements:
- company name
- mailing address
- phone #
- fax #
- e-mail address
- [optional elements: blog, IM, etc.)
This one added two elements:
- a picture (more on this in a moment)
- a quick blurb saying where we met: "We met at T-Systems Event at MIT 5/29/08"
I thought the blurb was ingenious. It instantly added context to that card by placing the person at a specific event, and it saved the recipient from having to do what I often do after events: jot down some notes about where I met this person on the back of his/her card. This addition clearly reflects a super-organized person who tailors his business cards to every networking event/opportunity. The downside, of course, is that it seems impossible, even given typical high-quality business printing capability, to create the letter-quality, printed-on-80-pound-stock business cards that are de rigueur in most businesses. I found the tradeoff to be worthwhile in this instance, although if I made up cards like this, I would likely keep a cache of traditional, higher-quality business cards on hand for more formal customer meetings.
Of the picture, I am a little more skeptical. Generally, in my experience, real estate agents are some of the only people I've seen who can get away with having their picture on the face of their business card, and even then it is often, for lack of a better word, cheesy. Of course, my experience is relatively parochial (I've lived in the Northeastern US all my life), so I'd welcome dissenting comments/points of view from readers farther afield who've had different experiences. The one mitigating factor in this case is that it complements the blurb well -- the next time I am at an MIT networking event, I am more likely to recognize only this person's face and recall where we met.
It was just a tiny idea, but clever - one often finds innovation in places (and at events) like this. My old habits are hard to break, however, and I'll bring traditional business cards, and a pen, to future networking events.