This morning we launched the newest version of BiblioBouts in the classroom. BiblioBouts is a web-based game which attempts to teach students good research skills. It’s a project I’ve been on for a couple of years now as a part of my old business.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been part of a project launch, but the amount of work left to do seems to increase as the number of days decreases. As a result, I’ve basically been living in my office in front of the computer for about the last four weeks. I haven’t had much sleep and my networking time has slowed to a crawl. Oh, I still do it every day, but I couldn’t keep up with the new business cards that I had received. Now that I’ve freed up my time, guess how I’m going to reconnect with those folks whom I really meant to call when I asked for their business card?

In truth, I probably won’t.

Oh, I’ll look through them and depending on how old the card is, how much time I spent with the person, and how much time I’ve known them already, I may still try to contact them. I’m afraid though that most of those cards have gone stale.

You see, the business cards you ask for are like loaves of fresh bread, they have a “sell by” date. My completely unscientific rule of thumb is that for every two minutes you spend with someone at a networking event, you’ve got at most a day to contact them before they don’t remember you well enough to think of you as anything other than a cold call — not that there is anything necessarily wrong with cold calls, it’s just difficult to start a networking relationship that way.

Think about the last event you attended. That person you spoke with in passing as you were hanging your jackets, are they going to remember you much beyond tomorrow? How about that guy you waited next to in the buffet line? If it was a long line, you might have two or three days before you become a faded memory. Do you remember the person who sat right next to you at lunch? You had a lengthy conversation about her passion for fly fishing. You’ve probably made a pretty good initial impression, but if it takes more than two weeks to follow up, you might as well forget it.

They aren’t bad people for forgetting us. After all, there were probably people at that same event who didn’t get stuck in your long-term mental storage. We aren’t bad people for not calling them. After all, they didn’t call us either. What it comes down to is being aware of the limitations of that brief first meeting. Trying to connect with them after the card has gone stale is a lot like making a sandwich with that loaf of challa that’s been out on the counter a day or two too long.

It’ll be dry and tough and, in the end, it probably won’t be worth the time to make it

Photo credit: Jana Kollarova