Photo: iamdez via Flickr
I remember when I got my first box of business cards. They were white, a nice card stock. Embossed blue writing. I’d done it — landed a “real job” at a company that thought enough of me to pay for 500 little pieces of paper joining my name to their logo. Never mind that my title was wrong, and the only people who wanted to have one were my mum and dad. It was exciting. I could end important conversations with, “Here, let me give you my card.” I had a stamp of authenticity.But things are different now, sort of. I’m at the final day at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, and my business cards (now white and crimson, of course), have certainly been helpful. I’ve traded them plentifully and with promises — already made, kept, or broken — of follow-ups and check-ins. But in some circles, they haven’t been helpful at all.
SXSW attracts distinct, and diverse, tribes. With some, my card is indeed a stamp of authenticity. In others, a mark of a time passed. When I’ve met journalists or designers, the business card is still the default. Some cards are plain; others speak to their holders’ personalities through odd trim sizes, quirky colour schemes, or clever word play. But in the startup circles I’ve come across, the business card is the badge of the outsider. I had a lovely conversation with two young entrepreneurs from New York and when it was time to part ways, I used that old line: “Here, let me give you my card.” They both paused, looking unsure about whether or not I was serious. Then I saw the understanding wash over them. I was speaking a forgotten language. A business card. How precious. One kindly accepted it anyway. The other craned his neck to copy my email address into his Hashable account and instantly sent me his virtual business card instead. With that small paper rectangle, I’d outed myself as a square.
In other situations, I’ve exchanged Twitter handles instead of email. In others still, it’s easier to swap phone numbers — for texting, of course. All of these methods allow people to keep in touch. But your preferred method says something about who you are, as much as saying it with funky fonts or trim sizes.
I’m a big fan of electronic communication. I’d always prefer my bank email me than send pieces of paper through the mail. It’s just easier to manage everything in one place, the place where I already am — online. So I understand the convenience of an instant electronic business card. But there’s something, too, in a world where we use paper less and less, that makes me appreciate paper even more. My cube walls are covered in what my mother once deemed, “paperorabilia.” When I return from the conference to summit the mountain of business cards needing my attention, I will no doubt appreciate that electronic card already sitting in my inbox. But I hope I will also appreciate the one with the DIY look of distressed cardboard, and that each will tell me something more about the person who gave it to me than I could have known from their contact info alone.
How do you like to exchange contact info when you meet someone? Do you think about what it might say about you?
If you’re still clutching to your cards, check: 30 Out-Of-The-Box Business Card Designs That Will Wow Your Contacts.
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