Business Card Etiquette

As promised in my last post on my New Year’s resolutions, here’s a quick post. This time about Business Cards. I was inspired by both reading Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents on the subway trip home from #OpenCoffeeBos as well as by my own experiences networking in the Boston community.

Business Card Etiquette

1) Start at the End

There’s nothing more annoying than when people lead with their business card.  As Chris Brogan mentions in his book…you need to build a connection before your card has value.  Giving out a business card should be a reaction to the conversation you have with another person. It should be a means (way to contact you) to an end (follow up email/meeting/deal).  Men, you wouldn’t ask a girl for her phone number the moment you met her, would you? And ladies, you’d never give that guy your number, would you?

2) Leave some White Space

We all want to make a good impression and have the right information on our cards, but let’s not complicate things.  Leave some white space,  so I can take notes on the card.  I don’t have a great memory and often meet many people at an event. It’s really helpful to write a few words on the back of your card so I know why I want to follow up with you or simply where we met when I add you to my stack of cards from previous events. This also means making sure your card is a light background at least on the back…if it’s glossy or a dark color, my efforts to write notes are futile.

3) Keep it Simple

The value you create should not be in how cool or catchy your business card is.  If you network properly, people are going to go out of their way to pull out your card and add you to their contacts and/or follow up with you.  Focus on building those relationships and you’re more likely to get noticed.  When I go through my pile of business cards, it’s because I’m looking for someone in particular, not to randomly choose a card from the stack.

These are a few things that stood out to me recently. What are your tips for business card etiquette?

12 thoughts on “Business Card Etiquette

  1. Good post Jason. And nice meeting you this morning. Business cards, I think, are an invitation to connect at a later date and continue the conversation at the event.

    If someone offers you a card too early, and you are not necessarily interested in continuing to talk, you might just not offer up one of your own.

    However, if you do take someone’s card, you ought to follow up somehow, even if just to say hello.

    • Jonas,

      Thanks for the comment and great to meet you today.

      I think there’s a real awkward issue with the handling of cards in person. You of course would never refuse someone’s card, but also giving out yours can be a way of showing moderate interest…if they follow up with something relevant you can then help them or do something, but it’s unfair to implicitly expect if you have their card that you must do something with it.

      I also think LinkedIn helps with this…if it’s someone that’s a good connection but maybe you don’t have anything to do/say right now, you can just connect.


  2. Bummer, I guess I am frequently an annoying person…one reason I tend to hand people my card early is they often have trouble with my name (variations on Bobbie — Bonnie, Barbie) and when they read it, it helps.

    If you’ve worked with people in other cultures you’ll find that the exchange of cards is often more ritualized than it is here in the States and the card exchange is part of formal introductions. In Japan for example, people hold cards with both hands, present them so they can be read and it is bad form to not read it on the spot. This focus on the card exchange process helps people recall names later on.

    • Bobbie,

      I definitely DQ any expectations when I’m mixing cultures…every one has a different way of doing things that is considered the norm.

      I think there are exceptions to any rule and your situation makes sense. I think that often the people that give out their cards early are making a number of other networking mistakes that I focused onto the time of giving out the card.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents « The Art of Living

  4. Pingback: New Year’s Resolutions Check Up « The Art of Living

  5. Jason, I often disagree with Bobbi Carlton, but I’m with her on this one, in terms of sharing cards at the start of the meeting. Not at a ‘networking’ event; but at a real, sit-down meeting. When one has an odd name like Des Pieri, one has to make sure that the other person is comfortable when they don’t get it. Giving them the card first does the trick.

    I agree 100% with you on ‘white space’ and ‘keep it simple.’ We’ll see if you think my card passes that test when I see you Wednesday morning.


  6. Des,

    I agree. The rules of the game are totally different when you have a one on one meeting, but I was writing this from the perspective of networking events. If you have a one on one meeting, then the trust factor that you otherwise build in networking is already past whether it’s because you already know this person or you got an introduction from a trusted individual.

    Cya Wednesday.

  7. I completely agree with the first paragraph. Just handing out business cards at random will not get you anywhere. However, when handing one over after an interesting conversation, the chances of your business card actually being looked at are much bigger.

    • Jesse,

      Glad to hear we’re on the same page. I heard some great advice recently: if you go to an hour long event, you should bring no more than 5 business cards as a meaningful connection takes time and you’re unlikely to make that in less than 10 minutes.

      Happy networking!

  8. Pingback: prince edward island

Comments are closed.