About five years ago, I designed my own business cards. On the front, they had my contact info and a stamp of my name in Mandarin Chinese that I'd gotten in Xi'An. On the back, there was a QR code containing a vCard of everything on the front, which was supposed to show people that I was way ahead of my time (this was, in fact, so far ahead of its time that nobody was ever able to scan one of the stupid things until last year).
Anyway, of the 500 or so cards I had printed, I probably still have 450 of them sitting on a shelf at home. Partly this is because I wasn't nearly as big on actual networking as I was on having a cool business card, but it's also a function of where the world is going: nobody keeps a rolodex full of cards anymore, and our address "books" live behind a touchscreen or on an Exchange server. And while I may have been a bit hasty in adopting them, these days QR codes and digital tags are everywhere. Machine-readable data has invaded the everyday world.
So this year, I'm taking an admittedly small risk and calling it: now is the time to ditch physical business cards. It'll save paper and money, reduce clutter and littering at conferences, and best of all, it'll genuinely put you on the cutting edge of digital networking.
Now you may be saying to yourself, sure, Thomas can do this: he's a bona fide misanthrope, but how can regular people get away with it? Good question. Here's a few easy strategies for going cardless:
In a few years, this'll all probably seem like old hat. That's why it's important to jump on the card-less trend now, so we can look down our noses at the luddites handing out paper slips (and manually copying them into their computers) while we still can.
I kid, of course. Seriously, though: set aside the snobbery, the savings in money and paper, the confetti of unwanted cards after a professional meetup, and the chance to demonstrate your new media credentials. Won't it feel good just to not have to carry around a stack of disposable business cards wherever you go? I feel lighter already.