So, you’ve gone to an event. You’ve met and chatted with some remarkable people. You asked for and received their business cards.

Now what?

Well, I know for me, for many years, those cards would eventually end up in a messy pile on my desk that kept getting deeper and deeper. Eventually the clutter would drive me nuts and I would have to clean off my desk. To my horror (OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic) I would find that I couldn’t even remember ninety percent of the people represented by those slips of paper. I would reluctantly throw them in the trash and save the remaining ten percent to start the new pile.

The problem was that I didn’t have a good system for processing them — one that helped me achieve the results I wanted from my networking efforts. Over time, I finally came up with something that worked for me. It’s a fairly simple system, otherwise I would never use it and we would go back to the “messy pile” plan.

First, I took a small box. I had one that I had received with a very small order of my business cards. I used some old business cards to create three divisions. As soon as I return from a networking event I empty all business cards into the first slot — my “to contact” file. Then, each day, when I sit down to make my three to five calls or emails I would grab a card or two from that slot.

If I wasn’t able to reach them, but did leave a message (or just sent an email), they would go into the next slot, the “awaiting response” area. Sometimes folks get back to me and sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, I have to decide whether they go back to the first slot or if they go into the trash. Sometimes that depends on the impression I received when I first spoke with them, other times it’s how many I already have in that first slot, and sometimes it might have to do with whether I’m in a grouchy mood.

Hey, I’m not a saint.

Finally, the third slot is for anyone with whom I was able to reach and schedule a one-to-one. This is the “add to long-term” slot. Now, they can still find their way into the trash from here, but it’s pretty rare. Standing me up for our meeting or trying to use that meeting to sell to me might send them right to the circular file, but that’s a pretty rare occurrence.

Once a week or so, I take the information from the cards in the final slot and add it to my tickler file. This ensures that I will be doing my part to maintain the relationship over the long term.

That’s about it. It’s not rocket surgery and you may already have a system that works better for you. For those of us who are still flapping our wings down here with the rest of the flock though, you might want to give this process a try. It may help you renew and extend the connections in your network. Something that can only bring your more success in the long run.

Photo credit: bargainmoose