How Not to Make Friends After A Conference

As mentioned in my previous posts, I had the privilege of attending the 2010 CFC and HOW Design Conferences in Denver in June of this year. Like any conference, you share stories with your colleagues. Eventually someone breaks out the business cards and you trade. And while I love a well-designed business card, I have a pile of them by the time the conference is over and other than enter a few of my top picks (more on this in a minute), I add them to my growing dust collectors collection of cards in my office.

So how do you keep in contact with your fellow attendees that you do want to connect with? Well, I first narrow down my cards based on 1) the notes I took on the back of the card or 2) how well I remember the person. I make those people a top priority to connect with and put the rest on the back burner.
For those few folks I do choose to connect with, I typically connect via an awkward e-mail or two, Facebook, or Twitter. So needless to say my follow up isn’t the best. However, I learned of another way that people are connecting post-conference, and while it might be a good idea overall, the implementation needed work.
Apparently, by handing my card out to a few folks at this year’s conference, I was also added to their e-newsletter without really knowing or thinking about it. Now for me, I do expect the large companies in the resource center to use and abuse my business card in exchange for cool schwag. However, for some reason, I never anticipated my fellow attendees signing me up for their newsletter just because I gave them my card. To me, this is spam because I never granted my permission to be on their e-mail list.
Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I started receiving new newsletters in my inbox that I didn’t sign up for . Were these newsletters asking me to try viagra or some other product? No, they were nicely written pieces that deserve more attention. But I didn’t ask for them. So I promptly unsubscribed from each and sent an e-mail to the person so they knew why I was unsubscribing. (I’m not always the most tactful person either, so I did my best to restrain myself, but I still need to work on it…) In every case, the person understood and made sure my name was removed.
But this all could have been avoided. All I want is to be asked to be signed up. So when you trade business, the exchange could go something like this: “Hi, it was nice to meet you. I would love to keep in touch with my e-newsletter, is it okay if I sign you up when I get back home?”
See how easy it was? I’ve been asked (and will most likely agree) to receive your newsletter because I’ve given you my card so I might think you’re a good person that I can learn from and share cool design stuff with.
My other thought is to follow Mig Reyes’ example and only hand out my card to folks who promise to send me something cool. That way I’m giving them permission up front to send me stuff.
Either way, please don’t be offended if I don’t ask for your card or give you one of mine. I’ve just grown to the point where I need to find quality connections, not quantity.