Business cards are a vital part of a networking event. Make sure you bring double the number that you think you will need. Due to resource constraints, some companies don’t issue business cards to all of their employees so you’ll need to create one for yourself.
If you are in this situation, visit one of many online resources to design your own cards. This can often be done for as little as $10 and they will usually arrive within one week.
If you create your own cards, don’t use your organization’s name, logo, or your work contact details.
Select a good quality cardstock (at least a sixty-pound cover stock), as some online stores will provide you with cards that feel a bit flimsy once they arrive. Some nice features to consider include embossed print, metallic ink, and other options. For most industries, select a basic font with black ink on a white card. For more creative industries, you can choose many more interesting fonts, designs, and colors.
Include the following information on your professional business card:
- Your name
- A personal phone number (Be sure that your voicemail is appropriately professional.)
- Your personal email address
- Your occupation or job function
- Your industry (or combine with above, such as: “IT Sales,” or “Federal Government Grant Writer”)
If you don’t have business cards with you at a networking event, it may signal that you are not prepared. The physical exchange of a piece of cardstock still dominates the networking scene in most industries. During networking events where there are people of different generations, exchanging cards instead of relying on a smartphone app is always a reliable approach.
The Business Card Exchange Ritual
There have been many words dedicated to the proper method of exchanging business cards—the physical method for receiving someone’s card and handing them your card. In fact, I’ve read one book that had fifteen pages in a full chapter on the topic.
Many of the formalities regarding the exchange of business cards are based in various cultures. In general, many Asian cultures tend to heed the following practices:
- Use two hands to present your card with it facing the other person, so that he or she may read it without turning it around.
- After receiving someone’s card, examine it and then ask a question or make a comment about the person’s title, office location or perhaps the logo.
- Do not stuff the card in your pocket too quickly—it is best to hold it in your hand or put it into a cardholder, wallet or notebook.
- NEVER write anything on the card. For some people, writing on their business card is considered a direct insult.
You may modify the strict protocol above while still demonstrating that understand the importance of good business etiquette. Considered this modified (less formal) approach:
- Always present your card facing the other person.
- Use one hand instead of two.
- Take at least 30 seconds to examine the other person’s card– do not stuff the card too quickly into your pocket.
- Never write on the card– this one still stands.
- Ask if the person prefers that you email or phone to contact them, and if he or she prefers that you use the cell or office phone.