Last weekend I presented a breakout session at a writing conference. I arrived in time to register and had a snack before the opening session, then headed into the auditorium with my plum-colored backpack, a rather chunky bag I take everywhere. It serves as my mobile office, so it’s filled with a wide range of items.
I found a seat next to an attendee and flopped my bag down by my feet. We introduced ourselves, and I asked what kind of writing she did. She asked about my writing life, and I described some of my work and mentioned that I was a writing coach.
At that moment I thought, “Oh, I should get out my business cards.” I thought I’d hand her one and then tuck the little container in my jacket pocket so I could easily whip them out.
I said, “Hold on. I’ll get you a card.” I unzipped the section of my bag where they should be, but…no cards. Hm. I shoved my hand into every little compartment—and this bag has a bunch of slick nylon sleeves and sections to help segment and organize stuff, so I started to make a lot of commotion for just one person.
She sat there bemused while I zipped and unzipped every section of my backpack multiple times, hoisting it back up to my lap to peer down inside.
I offered a goofy commentary as I rooted around the contents justifying items like the plastic fork, knife, and spoon I always carry because I’m often grabbing food on the go when I have that bag. I’m telling you, people often forget to include the cutlery in to-go bags, so it’s totally worth it.
Then I saw a card. Yes! I reached down to whip out the one lone card I spotted tucked in a small pocket.
“Great!” she said.
Before I handed it over, I flipped it around to see the front. Oh. It was somebody else’s card I’d shoved in there at another event.
“Um, that’s not mine.” Back to the bag. More zipping and unzipping.
This writer saw all my cords and pens, my lip balm, gum, tissues, Post-It notes, and a single-serving packet of dijon mustard, “not for retail sale.” All that, but no business cards—at least none of my own.
Here I was at a writing conference, talking with a writer—I should have an abundance of business cards! I should have dozens—no, I should have a box of a hundred at the hotel room and an extra baggie right here in my bag stuffed with 50 to replenish the cute little business card holder that was nowhere to be found.
For at least five full minutes I rummaged through that bag, but finally, I gave up. I’m sure the other writer was relieved. I zipped shut each compartment, stunned that I’d forgotten.
I mean, the business card is key. You meet someone. Shake hands. Chat about writing. Then you hand them your business card. You’re discussing your work, and they’re holding your brand.
The business card is tangible and memorable. It’s low-tech, high-touch. It’s an open door, an invitation, a welcome mat of sorts. “Contact me any time,” the card seems to say. “I’m glad our paths have crossed today.”
At a conference you’re making industry contacts: agents, editors, publishers—even writers who might want to collaborate with you. You want to make a lasting impression. You want them to remember you. You want to leave behind something, a bread crumb that leads back to you.
You want to hand them a business card.
And I couldn’t find even one of mine. Not one.
The opening session began and I tried to shake it off. Forget about the cards. It’s fine. You’ll be fine. If they can spell your name they can find you online.
The session ended and I couldn’t resist. I unzipped that backpack one more time and dug
into the slot that holds a few papers I rarely touch. And then I felt it. At the very bottom of that slot, between the papers and another Post-It pad, sat the elusive business card holder.
I turned to the writer who had seen all of my personal items. “You aren’t going believe this, but I just found it!”
The writer grinned. “I’m so glad!”
I whipped open the case, slid out a card, and held it up, triumphant.
“After all that, would you please take one?”
I handed it to her, snapped shut the case, and tucked it in the slot where it belonged.
Ah, that’s better.
I headed off to the next session where I met another writer and we exchanged cards. Then another. And that’s when I realized I had very few cards in that little case. I needed the plastic baggie refill and the hotel-hundred. But this was it. Another exchange of cards and I was down to one. Then none.
No more business cards.
Later that day I sat in a plenary session about building author platform. It was all about technology and social media: author websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. They invited us to tweet our questions and at the end, the speaker and some of her colleagues would answer them.
I was thinking about some low- or no-tech ideas for building a platform, like speaking opportunities, leading an organization, that kind of thing. So I tweeted my question:
Q: What non-digital platform-building efforts do you recommend (or do you only recommend focusing on digital efforts? #BreatheConf16
— Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach ✍🏻 (@annkroeker) October 7, 2016
The speaker and her cohorts didn’t get to my question because I tweeted it too late. But two other people on Twitter saw my tweet and offered their own responses.
The first said:
Business cards are always a great start! https://t.co/6LBg5dcfaE
— Silkcards (@Silkcards) October 7, 2016
Business cards is one way https://t.co/ONu8bUysZC
— healingangel7 (@healingangel7) October 7, 2016
Yeah. That’s a great idea. Wish I’d thought of it. Thank you.
(Of course I thanked them.)
Because if there is one non-technological platform-building item every writer needs, they’re right: it’s a business card.
And if there is one non-technological platform-building item every writer needs to remember: it’s to bring your business card.
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- Create an Author Business Card
- Discussion board thoughts on author business cards
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
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I love this story! I am always trying to get more organized, but I often end up looking everywhere for some note I know I made somewhere. I can relate to checking every pocket and folder… I even make “to do” lists and lose them. Thanks to for the good advice of business cards. Sometimes we forget the old school still works.
Ann Kroeker says
I lost paper to-do lists all. the. time. (no surprise after reading this, I’m sure!). My life transformed when I started using electronic to-do lists, because I do manage to hang onto my phone. Too bad a virtual business card is kind of the opposite of what a business card is and does (provide that physical connection). Ah, live and learn.
Lisa Littlewood says
So, funny story. I put two dozen, or so, business cards into a small ziplock bag before I headed out for the same conference…I showed up, looked though ALL of my pockets and realized they never made the trip from Buffalo to Michigan ): I had had the foresight to stick 3 of them in my wallet months ago and did hand those out. My missing business cards…they were discovered in my daughter’s homework bin, snugly in their ziplock bag, when I got home!!!
Ann Kroeker says
Lisa! So I’m not alone!
You made me laugh and realize you ARE human! I have always known you as the most
organized and efficient woman I have ever met.
Ann Kroeker says
I’m so glad I made you laugh!
And one thing is for sure: I will NEVER forget my business cards again.
Janyre Tromp says
Um-m and then there’s me who met you in real life, talked to you, and didn’t offer a card 😉 My non-digital platform-builder? A smile and a listening ear. Both of which you gave me at that conference. Thanks, by the way.
This made me laugh! Great story. I remember that plum-colored mobile office!