Business card exchanges happen constantly during the work day, but did you know that these interactions have a business card etiquette all their own? First and foremost, it’s important to keep your business cards clean, unfolded and within easy reach. Business prospects are everywhere: in line for coffee, at the hair salon, in the elevator, on the bus or train. You don’t want to be fumbling for your card in one of these situations or pulling a crinkled one from your wallet. I recommend investing in a true business card case; this way your cards will stay fresh, and the cards you receive from others will have a place to go.
In our rush to make a connection, we sometimes ask for another’s business card before evaluating the situation. Business card etiquette calls for us to engage in a few minutes of small talk before exchanging cards. After that it’s fine to ask for a card prior to handing yours over. It is never okay to go around handing your card to everyone you meet at an event. When you do exchange cards hold your card gently in two fingers before presenting it with the writing face-up towards the recipient. If they are familiar with business card etiquette they will comment on it before putting it away. Similarly, when you receive a card, study the card and remark on it before placing it in your card case, pocket or handbag.
When traveling, it’s important to research the business card etiquette of the country that you’re visiting. Many Asian countries take the business card exchange very seriously, and consider their card an extension of themselves. It is considered insulting if you place a card that you’ve received in your back pants pocket or throw it loose in your purse. If you will be visiting a particular country often, or conducting a lot of business while you’re there, consider printing your cards with English on one side, and the host country’s language on the other side.
Always thank someone for giving you their business card, and have some system of keeping track of the people that you have met. I use Outlook, but there are many database systems such as Access, Quickbase and iDatabase for Macs. Card Munch will enter the information from business cards for you automatically. To remind yourself where you met a contact, and any information you promised you’d send them, it’s fine to make notes on the card itself. This way you can follow-up on any promised items as needed.
As your career progresses you will undoubtedly make many workplace changes and your business card will progress through stages as well. But business card etiquette will remain the standard of which these everyday but important interactions take place.
Image Design Consulting and owner Sharon Kornstein, AICI CIP offer etiquette training, wardrobe organizing and communication skills training. Their expertise gives their clientele a leading edge on how to conduct themselves and dress in the office.