Sharing and exchanging business cards is an integral part of any job— a quick and easy way to continue a conversation or show you’d like to stay in touch. However, with any convention, event, or lifetime in a role comes a stack of cards that can end up scattered throughout bags, hotel rooms, backs of convention passes, back pockets and more, and in six months time when you think — I know just the person for this! — you can’t find anything you needed.
For a long time now, I’ve been tracking my business cards using Trello. I’ve written about Trello in the past for game development purposes, but it is absolutely my favorite tool for managing business cards.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the process, the benefits, and some tips and tricks. Hopefully if you’re headed to GDC, this will help you stay prepared and on top of these finicky pieces of paper.
I like to set up two types of boards:
- My general business cards board, where I put all the extra important (to me!) cards I’ve received and sort by a number of categories that work for me;
- Event boards — that allow me to specifically organize for follow-up and ongoing conversation directly after the event. This way, I know exactly when and where I met someone, and know how to find individuals I’m missing.
Your general board is going to be specific to you, your work, and probably your current role — but I like to organise it by my general areas of interest and focus. For example, my general board is split into:
etc, etc — you get the idea.
This is what’s relevant to me in my current role and my areas of interest, and allows me to easily sort for people that I might need or want to touch base with. When I change roles, this often changes and updates with it — but it’s easy to do so!
For a game design lead in charge of recruiting, it might be completely different — maybe you want to sort by specific categories e.g. technical artists, 3D artists, sort by potential job openings you know you have coming up, and so on.
Before you do anything, know what you really want to have available to you and quickly and easily, create your lists, and put your top contacts into these lists for easy access.
You’ll find you probably use this board less generally — but it’s a good option throughout the year if you meet someone that has great relevance to you. Now that we have the general board out of the way, let’s talk about event boards — and use GDC as an example.
I like to categorize my event boards a little differently. I’ll create an initial list literally just named after the event — in this case GDC. I’ll then make four other categories — Follow Up, Followed Up, Future Potential, Not Currently Needing Follow Up.
You could split this out even further — for example, by having GDC Monday, GDC Tuesday, specific events you might attend and so on. For me, mine is split into #GAConf, GDC, GDC Events/Mixers — as this is an easy way for me to split it out.
Keeping it minimal however, is often is a good way to ensure you don’t overwhelm yourself.
From there, let’s look at how we use the board.
For the sake of theatre, let’s pretend I’m an indie developer with a brand new mobile title. I have a vertical slice, and I’ve come to GDC in the hopes of finding a publisher, and maybe some future support.
So! I’ve had a great conversation with someone, and we trade business cards at the end of our chat. Immediately, I’ll take a photo of the business card with my phone. I do this throughout the entire day, and jot down any quick notes either on the card directly into the Trello app, or in my notes app in my phone — specifics of what we talked about, things I need to send them.
Depending on your free time, you might be able to update as you go, but usually, I’m flat out and only get ten minutes or so at the end of the day which I’ll prioritize for this purpose. I’ll sit down with a laptop or phone and sort through the pile of cards one by one. As I go, I’ll write the company name, the name of the person I met, and take photos of both the front and back of the card where relevant. Below, I’ve done four examples with random names, and fake business cards. I’ll email the business cards to my computer, if need be — ensuring they’re at medium resolution at minimum. If I’m on my phone, I can directly attach them.
Now, you could easily leave it at that — and start to move them between where you need to go. I however, like to have as much information as possible. Let’s start with Sarah.
I’ll open her card, and add some extra information — anything relevant I might want to remember, personal connections, details I don’t want to leave out in emails and so on. I’ll often add their twitter handle. For these examples, let’s pretend the other sides of the cards are just blank. Some cards, you’ll want photos of both sides — so add both accordingly in the details. You can dig down into further details, power-ups, attachments (say if they email you a document with their services listed, etc) — this is your domain.
If you’re sharing this board with your team, you can use this to add comments about things they said your coworkers might have missed, or assign due dates etc.
To make it easier for me to identify what sector Sarah is in, I’ll then add a label. You can see here for my purposes (if I was at GDC to pitch a mobile game) I’ve added details around useful labels for me. This means I can easily in future, file by other details — say, if I wanted to move to Console. You can whittle this down to specific consoles, or whatever your purposes, or keep broad.
Now, I can easily see at a glance by colour who I spoke to — and even easily create data for someone I might need to report back to (50% of meetings were had with publishers, for example.)
From here, I can go down my list and work out what’s next.
I know I want to publish with a mobile developer — so maybe I want to follow up with Sarah after our great chat. I haven’t yet brought a marketer on board and I’m not really sure how to approach it, so I’d like to talk further with Joe. I’m not planning on localization at all — and if I do it, I’d like to let my publisher handle it — so Irene isn’t useful for me to follow up on. I would like to think about moving to console for development of our next game, so Anna can go in future potential.
From here, as soon as I’m ready, I can go down my follow up list and send the necessary emails and materials on. As I go, I’ll move them into the Followed Up category, and add a date to their name so I know my last point of contact. Usually from here, conversations can be tracked via email or your normal project tracking — but this gives me a reference point for the first time I continued the conversation. Or, you could share the board — and set due dates on follow-up, and tag for specific team members. The possibilities are endless, and it really depends what your goals are and your outcomes both short-term, and long-term.
These follow ups might happen on a daily basis, or at the end of my entire trip — depending on my needs. Then, once you feel you’re on track, you can move contacts directly into your general board as you close discussions, move them into the “followed up” category and leave them there if there’s no future potential you can identify, and so on.
So — some general tips!
For privacy reasons, I’m not going to share my general board even if it was blacked out with details. However, if you saw it, you’d notice it’s relatively light — that’s because my previous board was under a company email. Do not do this. You will lose all your contacts if you’re not prepared to copy them over, and you deserve to have access to the people you meet in the course of your role. I have screenshots of all those individual cards, so I can find them if need be — but not as easily as I used to. Even if you think you’ll be at a job forever, even if cards are only relevant to your current role — keep them in a personal Trello. These are your contacts.
Take your photos in well-lit spaces — you don’t want to be squinting to read the details.
If you write anything on the card itself — note it down on the Trello card AS WELL as having it in the photo — you don’t want to be deciphering numbers or writing in two years time when your memory ain’t so fresh.
It’s as simple as that. It seems like a whole lot of work — but adding a card can take merely minutes, and being able to quickly and efficiently see what your leads look like is a huge help. It will save you time, energy, effort, and more for the rest of your game development career — and if you lose the physical cards, you know you’re covered.
I’d love to know how you manage and organize your business cards — let me know here or on Twitter — @merryh!