It is important to understand when it is appropriate to be handing out your business cards, and the manner in which to do so. When it comes to giving out your business cards, keep the following tips in mind.
Don’t leave home without your cards. However, don’t hand out your business card to everyone you know, as if you are spreading the wonder of who you are. First, see if people need or want your card. Handing out your cards like chewing gum makes you seem like a pushy salesperson – not the image you want to project.
Make sure your business cards are clean and in good condition. They are a part of your business image. A business card that is dirty or curled at the edges leaves a poor first impression. Use a business card case to keep your cards clean and fresh.
When your cards are damaged or out of date, print new ones. If you start crossing out information on a card and write new information on top of it, it makes it difficult to read and looks messy. Business cards are part of your image. Make sure yours are well designed and up to date.
When you receive a card, take a moment to look at it. Make a positive comment about some aspect of the card: the logo, the company name, or business location. This shows respect for the other person, and demonstrates your interest in them. As well, this is an excellent way for you to find out more about them, such as their job title. It also helps you remember their name, or reminds you of their name in case you forgot – a very common occurrence.
If someone hands you a card that you don’t want, don’t refuse to take it. Accept it, look at it, and put it in a pocket. Throw it out later. After you’ve looked at the card, place it carefully in a card case, or in a front pocket – not a back pocket. Treat the card with respect.
This includes being careful about writing on people’s cards. Although this may seem contrary to current thoughts on networking, in many cultures (specifically Asia), a business card is part of one’s overall persona, and should be treated with respect. People spend time and money designing a professional card and may not appreciate you writing across it. If you need to record information, write on the back, not the front. Ask first, “Do you mind if I write on your card?”
Make sure that you know how to use the electronic version of business cards if you are using a smartphone, BlackBerry, or similar electronic device. You don’t want to be fumbling to figure out the technology when you’ve just met someone who only uses them in that format.
If you are visiting a foreign country, make sure you learn their card etiquette. In Asia, for example, you should be offering a card that has English on one side and your client’s language on the other. The card should be offered to them with their language on the top side. You also need to make sure that you have your job title and how they should address you on cards given in most other countries.
If you found these tips helpful, and would like more useful information take a look at our training course Business Etiquette: Gaining That Extra Edge.