Recently, at a conference, I noticed how a colleague kept thrusting his business card in the face of anyone who spoke one word to him. I’d cringe each time I introduced him to someone I was speaking with and he’d flash his card out.
It is important to remember when networking, that the attitude should not be “what’s in it for me”, but instead, “what’s in it for them”. There is a set of protocols for giving out business cards, and the cardinal rule is that you don’t give out your card without being asked for one. I’d like to modify that one somewhat: True, you must wait to be asked for your card, but you can create the situation for someone to ask for your card. Otherwise, just ask how you can contact them, if they haven’t offered you their card. Or, at the very least, create a reason for someone to want to have your card.
For example, I was speaking with a gentleman who manufactured specialty cosmetics and I offered to put some information on my website about his products. So I offered to give him my card so he could contact me if he ever wanted to take me up on my offer. Notice I created the situation first, I offered to give him my card before I gave it to him.
It is also useful to take a cue from the Japanese who see a business card as an extension of the person it represents.
- Always give the card out with your right hand (or with both hands, as the Japanese do) and never with your left.
- Present the card with the writing facing the person you’re giving it to.
- It’s probably not a good idea to whip out your card from your wallet in your back pocket – a business card holder in a front pocket is better way to go.
- A business card holder will also keep your cards in mint condition for when you have to give them out.
- Remember your business card is a representation of you – make sure it reflects your values and personality.
- Accept the card with your right hand (or with both hands). The use of the left hand is insulting in many cultures.
- When you accept a card, never put it away immediately without looking at it with some interest for a few seconds. Better still, make a comment about the card or ask a question about some information on it. It shows you’re paying attention and not dismissing the person who gave you the card. You might also find some information which will be a good subject for discussion.
- Don’t put it in your back pocket and certainly not in front of the person who just gave it to you!
- Do follow up if you say you will. Only ask for cards from people you intend to contact.
- Make sure you transfer the information into your electronic contact management system or Rolodex (does anyone still use those?) – It is bad form to tell someone you need another card because you lost the one they gave you.