a firm handshake might get you that great first impression at a corporate event
or conference, but what about maintaining actual contact after the event or conference
is over? What if they can’t remember your name or your brand name? How do you
send a follow up email or makes a friendly call to extend the relationship if
you haven’t got their email address or phone number? What if you just can’t
remember how to spell that fascinating Czech surname they made such a cute joke
about over cocktails at the conference gala function? Namibia Planners, like
all companies, has to wrestle with these issues. Hands up anyone who still carries business
cards? Do you have a digital or e-business card, perhaps? Or do you just rely
on a twitter handle that is easy to remember, or bank on your Linked In profile
being easy to find in a Google search? It is surprising how many people have
taken the trouble to get great logos, online profiles and branded email
signatures, but don’t have a quick and easy way to share them in person, that
isn’t too time-consuming or socially awkward. No fear, Namibia Planners are
here to help! One of the huge advantages of going to a
conference or event is not the fabulous venue and delicious finger food (though
we all enjoy those), but the networking opportunities. In a digital era, it can
really give a surprisingly strong boost to your business project or brand if
you actually get out there and meet people face-to-face, building relationships
and getting your passion for your business ideas across in person. You
introduce yourself and get a great conversation started, and then it comes time
to move along. You make your move and…hope the person will look you up later?
Take the initiative instead and try one of these options:
- Hand over a beautifully designed, anything-but-old-school business card. These don’t have to be boring. You can get a fabulous one printed on lovely paper, with design details that really stand out, like using square cards, textured paper or a bit of foil lettering. I love using Canva or Moo to get an up-to-date template or design my own, or you can hire a graphic designer to get a professional, unique look. Online services like Moo print your professionally designed cards in small batches on high quality paper, and deliver them in a stylish box. Otherwise, speak to a local printer after checking among business associates whose cards have the nicest quality. Rather get 100 great cards than 1000 really cheap ones that have blurred edges and dodgy colours. Remember to get an attractive holder to go in your handbag, wallet or pocket, to keep them clean and neat, and get them updated yearly. Take a look at what current trends are likely to get you noticed, depending on where business partners and clients are from. In Nigeria, transparent plastic business cards are quite fashionable, while in Cape Town, the plastic might be frowned upon, but cotton paper made from recycled clothing industry offcuts, or unbleached recycled paper can give an on-trend look with an environmentally-friendly vibe.
- Get out your phone, enter their name and number as a contact and promise to send a quick message with your name on later so they have your number too. Then, DO THIS – preferably the next time you excuse yourself to go to the loo, before you forget the whole thing. It is a great idea at this point to double-check the spelling of their name, or ask them to type it in for you, along with their company name. Rather be charming about making 100% sure now than make a glaring mistake later. I take no name spellings for granted. You’d be amazed at the variations out there on even supposedly simple, traditional names in any language.
- Ask for their business card and either take it, or take a photo of it, depending on what you are most likely to hold on to and remember. Send a follow up email or phone call letting them know you were delighted to meet them at X conference or event in Namibia and that you would love to plan a follow up conversation some time, or share more ideas on how you can work together.
- Ask for their number or email address and type it immediately into the To: field of an email or sms, then send them your own contact as a virtual business card. This means saving your own name and business contact details as a contact on your phone. This has the advantage of the person being able to save your contact details right away without having to type this in (with possible errors) from a business card.
- Have a beautiful hard-cover notebook and pen handy and get them to write their name and address down. Some people love the look and feel of this. Just take a look at their handwriting, and be aware that it can be super tricky to read some people’s handwriting and then check the spelling of their name, or whether their phone number ends in a 1 or a 7, while not giving offence.
- Send them a digital business card. Some apps that allow you to create amazing digital business cards are covered in this post: You can also create an e-business card in Microsoft office. If you aren’t very confident about this, talk to a good graphic designer – they should be able to help you out. The advantage is no printing costs, and being able to share far more than you can on a conventional paper card, including introductory videos and links to your professional social media profiles. The convenience factor is huge and you can make a great impression as someone on the cutting edge with an e-card. The disadvantages can include being tied into monthly subscription fees in US dollars to run an app, and sometimes needing the other person to have compatible apps or software to be able to access your card and share theirs.
standard is in your field, and to compare the cost of professionally designing
and printing business cards to the cost of a professional level app. How
digitally savvy you or your typical customers are is also important to bear in
mind – no one wants to spend their tea break at a conference hunched over a
phone while they figure out if they can install an app just to get your e-card.
I like to have both handy – an old-school card and those digital versions, so I
can ask the new contact which would work best for them and go with their
preference. When it comes to closing which option, remember
it is important to observe good manners as always and do what makes the other
person most comfortable. It is also polite, if you have offered your business
card, to ask for theirs in return.
For some really useful insights into business card etiquette in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, visit Moo’s blog: They point out valuable cultural differences such as which hands you should use to hand over cards in some countries, how many you need, and whether or not a translation into the local language is expected or not. They don’t unfortunately cover Africa.In South Africa, business card etiquette is not
unlike that of the UK – where business cards are typically swapped at the end
of a meeting, and it is polite to ask for the other person’s card before
offering your own. On the other hand, lots of people are even happier with a
digital contact details swap such as swapping phone numbers with a WhatsApp
message or sms to confirm the numbers, as many colleagues say they tend to
clear out business cards from their wallets or handbags, sometimes without
re-reading them. Just remember to add who you are in some way, e.g. a short
note reminding them of your meeting at the conference, so they can refer back
to you later. English is usually considered adequate in South Africa and Namibia,
as well as many other African countries, but if you work in an area where
another official language is used frequently, or a country where there is
another major language, such as Swahili or Portuguese, in a bilingual company,
mine or university, it is a great gesture to have a translated version into the
other language on one side of your card. Namibian professionals still use traditional
business cards, but more companies are going paperless, or using business card
scanning apps to capture information on cards after an event. It helps to be
prepared to do either, depending on your clientele and colleagues in your
particular field. Do let us know in the comments if you have any funny stories
to tell about business card experiences, or any tips from your particular