How to take less business cards to a conference…and still make good contacts

The traditional business card has become part of social etiquette. We make sure when we start a new job we order in 100 cards so that we can pass them out in meetings with clients, vendors, and customers, but most of us really could care less about the little piece of paper and would rather you just email me your contact info. It gets even worse when people have tried to be original and have an odd shaped card. Where are you going to put it? It does not fit right in your business card slot in your bag; it is weird in your wallet, so most likely it will just get thrown in the trash. The only thing that people seem to really like business cards for nowadays is to drop in the fish bowl at Chipotle, or your closest quick lunch place to try to win lunch to a day for your office.

There is one exception, when going to a business conference you want to make as many contacts as possible, both professionally and personally, and often times you don’t want the two to mix. One of my colleagues just came back from a conference and showed me what I think might be one of the better ideas I have seen in a while for a conference and I thought I would share it and expand on it some. Carry a small business card case with you that you can keep 25 or 30 cards in for those times you really want to drop a business card so you might win that new Apple TV the vendors was giving out. When you want to trade information with a vendor or colleague though you should look at technology…

In comes the QR code. While in many circles the QR code has not gone mainstream, a technical conference is probably the first place you will see it being used prolifically. It is probably not a stretch to say that 99% of the vendors, attendees, and sponsors at a tech conference will have a smart phone on them. So many in fact that Christopher Kusek pointed out in his blog post on VMworld tips and tricks that you might want a portable charger because finding a plug is a rare commodity. Enough about why you need a QR code, heres how you do it and some examples.

First you can create a text file that is formatted like a vCard. You will need to use the version 1 formatting as many of the readers will otherwise just think the QR code represents text. Here’s an example of my personal vcard and the QR to match:

BEGIN:VCARD

N:Michael;Letschin

EMAIL;HOME:mletschin@gmail.com

TEL;CELL:443-520-3954

URL;HOME:http://about.me/mletschin

END:VCARD

I point out specifically that it is my personal vcard because I also have one that has all my corporate information. That way if it is someone I want to contact me at work I can have them scan my business QR and if it is for a personal contact you can have them scan the personal one. Heres what my business one looks like, you will note that I have a few sections with multiple items.

BEGIN:VCARD

N:Michael;Letschin

ORG:Convergence Technology Consulting

TITLE:Lead Integration Architect – VMware

EMAIL;WORK:mletschin@convergencetech.us

EMAIL;HOME:mletschin@gmail.com

ADR;WORK;PREF:;;808 Landmark Drive, Ste 213;Glen Burnie;Maryland;21061

TEL;WORK:301-860-1964

TEL;CELL:443-520-3954

URL:www.convergencetech.us

END:VCARD

If you also notice the more you put in the QR the more complex the code gets. There are a lot of free QR generators out there. This link has 14 free ones to take a look at – http://goo.gl/LSzPw. For creating mine I used Snapmyinfo.com since theirs allows you to just copy text. (http://goo.gl/4GY1H) Now all you have to do is copy the QR codes to your smartphone and you will have them ready to be scanned. You can also use them for creating direct links to websites like if you are throwing a party at the event and want to pass out the registration page or want to have people check in at that party, just create the spot on foursquare and let people check in with a QR code. Or to pass out your twitter address like this one for mine, I was not able to figure out how to add that into the vCard so if anyone knows that please let me know:

The possibilities for use of the QR code seem to be almost endless but I know that I will carry a lot less business cards and just pass along my info electronically.

One more cool trick I learned when looking into this is that all the Google URL shortened address can provide a QR code directly for each. Heres the ones from the article, simple put a .qr behind the shortened URL and you will get the QR code.

4 Replies to “How to take less business cards to a conference…and still make good contacts”

  1. MS Tags are better as it allows you to put more information in the Tag. The QR codes can’t fit as much in so you have to limit how much data you put in them.

    1. I agree you get more info, unfortunately the QR code reader is more standard on mobile devices. In my experience less people have a MS tag reader on their phone even though they could add it.

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