3 Tips for Clutter-Free Business Networking

Rather tidy, color-coordinated, networking clutter.

Unrealistically tidy arrangement of color-coordinated networking clutter.

Are your desk and office cluttered with promotional items? You know, the stuff you bring back from business networking events, seminars, expos, conferences, luncheons, and meetings? Don’t know what to do with it all? Here are my top 3 tips for controlling networking clutter:

1. You don’t have to take it with you!

First of all, you don’t have to take a copy of every flyer, brochure, promotional item, sample, and business card that comes your way! When someone is handing out stuff, I usually accept their business card and ask if they have a website for my future reference (which they usually do). I often decline samples, brochures, and gadgets. If the items are already sitting at my place at a luncheon table, and I don’t want them, I simply leave them there. (Note to friends: If I don’t take your brochure, remember that I probably have one at home already.)

Sometimes I do take a brochure, especially if it’s for a product or service I’m actually interested in for myself right now. Or, if I have someone in mind that I want to give the brochure to.

2. Why take it if you aren’t going to follow up?

If you are going to contact the people you met at the event, do it right away. If I can’t follow up the next day, I figure I have up to a week to be able to say, “I enjoyed meeting you last week!” You might be surprised to learn that I don’t add everyone I meet to my database. Whether or not I follow up (or how soon) depends on how interested they were in my services, or vice versa, or whether I promised to send them something such as a referral, my newsletter, or other helpful info. (A personal pet peeve of mine is being sent someone’s newsletter without my permission. Grrr!) I also do not follow up with people who are just handing out stuff to everyone they see, as quickly as they can, without expressing interest in anyone else. If we meet again later, and make a connection, I can follow up with them then.

3. Corral the networking clutter!

Designate a spot in your office to collect all the new goodies you couldn’t resist. Go straight there and make your deposit upon returning from an event. I do have some networking clutter, but I limit it to one small (shoe box sized) un-sorted bin. You could designate a drawer instead, or a folder for flat papers, but don’t let your container overflow! This spot must be purged regularly to prevent the pile from taking over your office, and to make room for new stuff. Toss duplicates and out of date materials. Consider how often people change professions and contact info these days. Much of it will be old and easy to purge. Get rid of the pens and samples you thought you’d use, but never did. If, during this process, you realize, “Oh, I should call so-and-so,” call them now, or schedule a time on your calendar to follow up with them.

What is your favorite, or least favorite, type of networking clutter?

Please share in the comments below!

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Comments

    • I agree that some of it is useful, or fun, and good for advertising one’s business. But some folks get overwhelmed with the quantity they are accumulating and not using. If they take it just to be polite, it can be a waste of money on the part of the person who paid for it…unless, of course, while de-cluttering, they see the company’s info on a pen and decide to call and do business with them!

  1. I have to admit I was shocked when someone told me they don’t take home the marketing materials that are handed out at networking events, but it really does make sense. If you just leave it on the table, the person can gather them up and take them away for another time, and is it really polite to accept it just to take it home and toss it in the blue box?

    • I tend not to hand out a lot of stuff. I am always prepared with a supply of business cards to hand to those who express interest, and will pass them around the luncheon table for those who want to take one, but the only time I put something at each place setting is if I’m the keynote speaker. I hate the thought of my marketing materials languishing in a box and eventually being thrown in the trash! Or even worse…cluttering up someone’s workspace.

      • But of course you are more cognizant than most networkers! It drives me nuts when people go around and put their flyers and/or business cards at every place setting, without bothering to introduce themselves, which would be a much more effective way to connect with others.

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