The Business of the Business Card

Culturally we’ve changed a lot since the 17th century when members of polite society were expected to carry these pocket friendly “how do you do, I’m here to visit you”, introductory cards that were once used to announce the arrival of a distinguished individual. A cultural shift caused by the popular use of social media has caused many to feel that if they really want to know more about someone they can simply do so with the click of a mouse and thus fail to acknowledge that having a business card is still an essential tool in networking and self-branding. Social media and electronic communication like texting and e-mailing are things many take for granted as easy substitutes to actually having to charm others through the skill of conversation. However, in the professional world, electronic communication will never leave the same clarity or impression that verbal communication can.

So what does this all have to do with business/“networking” (as they are most currently called) cards? For the modern person it serves as a way to provide a newly met friend, work associate, colleague, or possible employer with a lasting impression of your encounter together that has multiple ways to get and keep in touch with you as an added bonus. Its very design should be used to communicate something about who you are and also serve as a token to remember you by. Images, quotes, or even the job title on your card can also be used as conversation starters. For example, my personal networking card has a backdrop of a city skyline and from time-to-time I’ve had the reaction of, “so you’re a city girl?” leaving me with multiple avenues from which to generate a conversation; I could talk about my trips to NYC, growing up in San Diego, or the years that I lived in Wurzburg, etc.

Card Trading Etiquette

1. Work the trade only around the time you are about to part with him/her. Hastily presenting your card will give off the impression that you have grown bored or are pushing to close the interaction that you are having with him/her.

2. When receiving a card it’s polite to look it over before putting it away.

3. When trading internationally on business it’s polite to have translated business cards in the language of the country that you’re in.

4. Make appropriate eye contact during the hand off and avoid handing off your card in a handshake. Communicating a sense of sincerity is key! You want to communicate that you like him/her and you really do want them to stay in touch.

5. Avoid giving out cards that have been previously written on or are in poor condition.

6. Always design your card to communicate to an audience and keep in mind what impression it will give long after the encounter. It could be months before you hear from them and the image on it (that you worked into your conversation months ago) may not hold the same “funniness” now as it did then.

Eleonor is a San Diego native with a passion for writing, business, and the culinary arts. She attends Christopher Newport University as an English major, business minor and has undergraduate degrees from The Culinary Institute of Virginia and the University of Maryland University College.