Nine Ways Business Cards Can Save Your Life

If you are a young professional and are serious about networking in your field, you probably have your own business cards. Just kidding. You probably don’t, because who carries business cards under the age of thirty? Isn’t that for stodgy old lawyers and bankers? Definitely not for the artistic among us, free spirits full of flamboyant disregard for the technicalities of the last generation’s business practices.

Maybe, maybe not. Turns out business cards can be very handy. Here are nine scenarios in which business cards could prove useful—even lifesaving.

1. Gorgeous as heck

What is the professional business equivalent of the iconic, “The name is Bond . . . James Bond”? You got it: business cards. Flipping one of those small, glossy babies out of a pocket or wallet—especially if it has a minimalistic design and a killer title including words like “expert,” “guru,” or “consultant”—is gorgeous as heck.

2. You look like you’ve got it together

The Millennial generation is constantly being underestimated. What better way to prove to that Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer that you’ve got it together and are a force to be reckoned with than to speak their language? The language of business cards. Handing someone your business card is a power play that screams confidence and professionalism. Use it as such.

3. Eliminates awkward “looking for a pen” moments

There are few things that kill a competent, professional conversation quicker than looking unprepared and flustered. When networking, people are going to ask for your contact information. Having a business card to flash means that you’re not digging through pockets and asking passersby for a pen so you can scribble your digits on a nearby napkin.

4. Makes a great conversation-ender

You’re nearing the end of a good conversation with someone in your field. You start to panic, wondering how you’re going to say goodbye to this person. How do you go about ending your conversation? “See you later”? “Be in touch”? “I love you”? Instead of potentially embarrassing yourself in front of your new contact, just flip out your business card and say, “Thanks for your time.” Then walk away tall, you professional devil.

5. Easy way to get your number to that cute person

At least two men have given me their numbers this way in the past couple of months. It is a chill, laid-back way to get that person your number. No pressure, no giving them your phone, no repeating numbers back in case they got it wrong. Just a quick flip of glossy cardstock, and you’re golden. How will they resist?

6. Bookmarks!

Have more business cards than you know what to do with? Use them as bookmarks! You can never have enough bookmarks.

7. Scatter them across the street for avant-garde marketing

Once I was walking down the road and came across a slew of business cards, soggy with street water and looking like sad, pale autumn leaves. Intrigued, I picked one up and pocketed it. Imagine if I had been a successful entrepreneur looking for my next star employee! This is a cheap and creative (if questionably effective) way to get yourself some exposure in the real world.

8. A stack of them can prop up a piece of wobbly furniture

Is your table at the local café wobbly? Have a stack of business cards handy? A+B=C, my friend.

9. May stop a bullet if carried in the right place

While I have not had first-hand experience with this (and do not suggest you try it at home), a strategically situated stack of business cards could possibly deter the odd stray bullet.

And there you go: nine ways a business card could save your life. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and be a professional.

How Do We Fix Poetry Readings?

Last Sunday, I went to a poetry reading. It was a joint reading by two indie publishing collectives, the New York indie press great weather for MEDIA and a local publisher, Printed Matter Vancouver. It was a nice evening: Christopher Luna read a standout poem about the Black Dahlia and the Surrealists, Gina Williams enlisted fellow poet Brad Garber to read the one-sided dialogue in a very funny poem about eavesdropping, and Jane Ormerod closed the show with her epic, breathless paean to drinking, “Raging Bull.”

But although the reading got many things right—brisk pacing, an excellent venue (the Clinton Street Theater), and an unusual hook (the great weather poets were on a “=reading tour across America)—the venue was mostly empty. No doubt there were mitigating factors—it was a Sunday, after all—but it wasn’t exactly surprising. I’ve been to some raucous, well-attended readings (literary pub crawl LitHop comes to mind), but more often than not, they are low-key and often inadvertently insular. A friend of mine who isn’t in the literary community once described feeling “like an atheist in church” at poetry readings. It got me thinking about what we can do as publishers, curators, and organizers to help make poetry readings the kind of events that strangers might stumble upon and stick around for:

  • Have the reading in a fresh setting. There are only a few settings considered “ideal” for poetry readings, and I’d argue that many of them are actually not. If you’ve ever seen someone slowly back out the door of a coffee shop when they realize a poetry reading is happening, you know what I’m talking about. One of the best readings I went to this year was the Future Tense-sponsored reading at Colonel Summers Park. It was a summer evening and the audience was spread out on blankets, eating and drinking. There was activity all around—kids playing catch, people walking dogs, sounds from the street—but this made the reading feel like a true community activity. The open setting also allowed people to drift over and see if they liked what they heard (and wander away gracefully if they didn’t).

  • Present funny poems. I’m not saying that everybody has to read a limerick, although that’s a great idea and someone should do a reading exactly like that. But humor is disarming, so encouraging poets to mix in a poem that is witty, dry, or even (especially) perverse can help convince the casual attendee that poetry can actually be a lot of fun, which is a thing almost no one believes. This is true for prose readings, too: funny pieces always kill.

  • Encourage poets to think about the performance of the poems they are going to read. Not everyone has to be a slam poet, and not everyone should be. But it was delightful to watch Williams and Garber trade lines at Sunday’s reading, and it made me wonder why more poets don’t take advantage of the endless performative options for interpreting their work. I’m not saying that every poet needs a backup band (but do check out Ormerod’s jazz band-backed performance of “Raging Bull”). There are performance options that don’t require instruments or a projection screen or a gospel choir. It might be as simple as learning to project a little better.

  • Gimmicks! No one is too good for a clever gimmick. I’m a sucker for theme nights, and chances are you are too. How about a night where everybody reads poems they wrote that day? How about a night of nothing but sex poems, or city poems, or Battlestar Galactica Poems?! Tell me you couldn’t get fifty people to go to that.

There are great readings in Portland and lots of people doing innovative, wonderful things. But I think we could create a bigger, more diverse audience for the work we’re doing and the art we’re creating. This is how I would do it. How would you?