3 rules for successfully mastering business card etiquette & networking

Published · 2 min read

Social media platforms like LinkedIn have greatly advanced the way that we network online, but face-to-face interactions have yet to change at the same pace. For example, when attending networking events the most common way of staying connected to new contacts is still through the exchange of business cards. Making a great and lasting impression is tantamount in this social scenario. Master these three tips and you’ll appear even more polished and serious about establishing new relationships.

Show respect when receiving a card

When someone offers you his or her business card, accept it using your right hand. Take time to look at it, thank the person by using their name and find something about the card to compliment. You can then put the card away in the back of your card case or another place for safe keeping (not tossed into the bottom of your purse). Their card should be kept as neat and tidy as your own and please resist the temptation to write any notes on it – that would be considered rude.

Note that this exchange may look different in other parts of the world. Research the customs of your destination when traveling abroad so that you’re well prepared. In Japan, for example, business cards are always received with two hands but can be given with only one.

Ask first, then offer

Once you’ve taken the time to create a personal connection with someone, and you’d like to contact them again, ask for their business card. It’s likely that they’ll reciprocate and ask for yours, as well.

If there’s not an opportunity for a mutual exchange of cards (they’ve run out of cards, etc), it’s polite to respond with, “May I offer you my business card and follow up within a few days?” but you must ask. In this instance, connecting via LinkedIn is a great next step, as the platform can now serve as their virtual business card and point of contact.

It’s a business card, not a card game

Consider your business card an extension of your personal brand. When you pass your card out as if you were dealing playing cards, you devalue your brand and also miss the opportunity to get to know and connect with others. Be selective in giving out your card.

Networking is about establishing contacts and finding a fit for a possible business relationship. Your card, alone, cannot make that happen. Making a strong impression that makes someone want to continue the conversation will. Leaving a networking event with five good business leads will enrich your network more than blindly giving out 50 business cards to people you’ll likely never hear from again.

As with all social scenarios, exchanging business cards has its own rules of etiquette. Practice these and you’ll be well on your way to making an impression that results in a growing network of business contacts.

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