You have an amazing business card with the perfect font, the perfect graphics, and the perfect wording. Now you're headed out to network, ready to use your new business cards as a tool to build your professional standing and your business.
Is There a Right Way to Hand out Business Cards?
Yes. Don't be a Business Card Bomber throwing cards at people without engaging in conversation. If the business card exchange is the first thing you're doing when making connections with people at events, you're not networking properly.
What you should be doing is fostering communication about who they are, what they do, and why they are at the event. This will give you ample opportunity to introduce yourself and go from there. There's no harm in using networking icebreakers if reaching out is not one of your strengths.
Introduce Yourself and Ask If You Can Give Them Your Card
Once you've made a connection, you can give your card to people who ask for it or those whom you ask and receive permission to hand a card to. “Hey, let me give you a business card,” is not appropriate and makes you look less professional.
If you're still unsure of what to say when handing out business cards, try some of these:
- "I'd love to go out to coffee sometime and pick your brain. Call me up."
- "Here's my card. I'd love to hear from you soon."
- "It was so great to meet you! Can I have your card? Here's mine in return."
It's Important to Ask for Their Card, Too
Let's re-emphasize: Even if they were the ones who approached you first, ask for their card in return. You’re giving cards out to potential leads and hopefully customers; you'll need a way to initiate contact with them at a future date and time.
It is also good form to make a positive comment about a business card you receive—say something about the clever wordplay, their great logo, or the quality of the paper. This adds to the giver’s self-worth and makes you more memorable in a positive way.
Only Give Them One Unless they Ask for More
Handing multiple cards to one person is presumptuous. They may want to keep in touch with you, but unless they ask, they don't want to advertise for you.
Don't let a good first impression go to waste. Call or email them to say it was nice to meet them, refer to a discussion you may have had (example: "I tried that sushi place you recommended and it was fabulous."), and if appropriate, ask for a one on one meeting or invite them to an upcoming event. Do not add them to your mailing list unless they specifically ask. This violates spamming laws and is just poor practice.
Other Business Card Etiquette Tips
Asking permission or waiting for someone to ask you to give out a business card is not the only rule of etiquette a person should follow. Be sure to:
- Only give out business cards that look good. Never keep business cards in places where the corners will be bent and the cards will become dirty. Make certain the card represents the “best you” possible.
- Take a business card case with several cards in it anytime you leave your office. Whether running an errand, going to the doctor, or going to lunch, you never know when you are going to run into someone who should have your card.
- Get their contact information. If a person has no card to return, give them two of yours so they can write their contact information on the back of yours and return it.
Business cards are important tools for making future communication in business possible. Follow a few simple rules of business card etiquette to ensure that the memories you create are positive and are memories you will want to be associated with.