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Face-to-face networking for geeks and dweebs

Shawn AndersonShawn Anderson

I’m a fan of technical conferences. The two that I like to attend are Microsoft TechEd and IBM Pulse.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of ponying up your own cash for these conferences. Today I want to hit another aspect; the people.

If you decide to attend TechEd 2011, make one more leap and commit yourself to something that geeks have a tough time with… networking.

I’m not talking about laying cable. I’m referencing the act of speaking.

To people.

Other people.  

Other people that you don’t already know.

(I’ll be happy to pause for a moment if some of you feel the need to reach for your inhalor.)

For some reason mingling with the masses is tough for dweebs to do. However, mingling at tech conferences has a plus; you can actually mingle. (Can you imagine trying to network at a national convention of inspirational speakers? You wouldn’t get a word in edgewise.)

So here’s a tip. It’s easy to do and costs just a few bucks. Stick with me.

(business cards)

Hold tight. I’m not talking about the your Dad’s cards that list name, title, address, phone number, facsimile, email, web address, and the obligatory 4-color logo.

I’m thinking more like:

Remember, you’re not applying for a mortgage. You’re meeting like minded people. If they can’t figure out what your email address is from this card then you probably don’t want them contacting you.

Now obviously if your domain name isn’t a dot com or you have an abbreviated domain name, then you’ll need to stir your own creative juices. Just make your card memorable, and remember the following business card advice.

A business card performs three very basic functions:

  1. Help them remember you

  2. Help them contact you

  3. Help them by providing a bit of paper for jotting down grocery lists and dental appointments.

So here’s a tip. Go to Overnight Prints. You can make your own business card online in minutes (use their advanced designer).

Don’t get caught up with over the top backgrounds. I actually prefer no background. I love white space because it leaves so much to the imagination (if this were an interactive blog I’d have the imagination song from South Park start playing right about… now).

You’ll get great customer service from the folks at over night prints. We’ve used them several times over the years and have been pleased with the results. On one order they actually made a printing error. We contacted them and they overnighted a double order of the corrected cards at no extra cost to us.

Oh, one note from the trenches. Once, when ordering a batch of cards for our company I decided to do the retro thing and get glossy cards. I never heard the end of it from Adam, Shane, or Gwen. So take it from me – don’t order the glossy paper. It looks sharp, but you can’t write on the cards. A card that you can’t write on quickly becomes useless (see list above).

Remember that business cards aren’t Mom’s nice china, and while they’ll eventually be forgotten and discarded, you won’t be.

Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson

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