printedI know I’m not alone when I say that face-to-face networking isn’t my favorite thing to do. The word ‘networking’ makes my skin crawl a little. But it’s important. Face-to-face interactions still mean an awful lot, convey a sense of trust and familiarity that emails and Twitter followers can’t. A real person’s recommendation of a new restaurant in town still means a lot more to me than a dozen Yelp reviews. And I know from experience that forced, artificially cultivated conversations at conferences and business meetups can lead to real sales and business partnerships. So it must be done.

Because of my general suspicions of networking, I’m not one of these people that get real excited about networking strategies. I don’t deal in Handshakes per Hour (HPH) or talk at length about ‘leave-behinds’. But again, I know that smart businesspeople prepare for networking events, and so I’ve picked up a few pointers along the way.

One of the take-aways from years of awkward and slightly-less-awkward dealings with networking is to bring supplies. Honestly, it had never occurred to me to bring anything more than a fat stack of business cards to these events, one that has my relevant information and a link to my website. More and more though, I’ve been seeing people hand out mini-flyers or postcard-sized cards to people they meet at conferences. These offer a number of benefits:

  • Handy size. Even though the flyers I’ve seen aren’t small enough to fit into a wallet or business card holder, they are still plenty small to carry in a pocket and take home. Anything larger than a quarter-sheet of paper gets annoying to carry around, but postcard-sized sheets work great.
  • More information. A business card really doesn’t tell a stranger much about your business. With two or three times the space, a postcard or mini-flyer allows you to give your company’s vital stats, any awards or recognitions you’ve gained, and a short company bio that gives the reader a background on what you’re all about. This is especially helpful when folks are meeting tons of other people and need a hint to remember you among dozens of others.
  • Time-sensitive info. If you have a sale or a special promotion going on at the time of the event, postcards are a great way to get the word out at a big conference. Another option is to include a promotion or discount code on the flyers that gives a special deal to convention-goers who do business with you.

Just keep a couple things in mind with these kinds of promotional materials: these are widely circulated representations of your brand. Design them carefully or get a designer to make sure these print products match your logos, color schemes, and font families on your website, storefront, etc. Some online printing companies offer design services along with postcard printing and for a low, flat rate.┬áThe biggest online print companies won’t be able to give you one-on-one design help, even if their printing is cheap. Not only does this brand coordination look more professional, it helps you and your company stick in peoples’ minds. Get your order in well before the big convention or event so you can be sure to have them when the time comes, even if they have to be reprinted. This is especially important if you have time-sensitive information printed on your cards. Getting a shipment of discount cards for attendees of a conference don’t do much if they arrive two days after the event.