Business card etiquette – 6 practical tips

Did you know it only takes around seven seconds to judge someone when you first meet them?

That’s right. You’ve got seven seconds to smile, make eye contact, speak with poise and shake hands.

But it’s not just what you say. Your non-verbal communication speaks volumes about you and your business. Especially when making that all-important first impression.

So assuming you get a positive reaction right away, how do you maintain it until the end of the conversation?

Dressing smart helps. Being polite is a must. But neither will matter much if you fumble the business card exchange with a new client or customer. Because that moment is about more than swapping contact info.

The following tips will help you build rapport and look attentive when sharing and receiving business cards.

First, take stock

Opportunity knocks anytime, anywhere. So be ready to own it. Make sure you carry enough business cards on you for any occasion. It's embarrassing to have to make an excuse if somebody gives you their card and you can’t reciprocate. And even if it’s true, “mine are at the printers” sounds about as credible as, “the dog ate it!”

Keep your cards close at hand

No one looks confident when they're rifling through their pockets. Show how well-prepared you are by having your cards close at hand. This not only looks professional, but you never know where or when you’ll meet your next client.

Share fresh business cards every time

A sturdy business card holder keeps your cards clean and crisp. And while sharing a fresh card from a holder looks professional, storing your new contact’s card alongside your own shows consideration and attention to detail.

Follow the other person’s lead

In the same way a fumble-free baton pass maintains speed in a relay race, a frictionless business card swap keeps the momentum of your conversation going.

Try this: when you receive a business card, accept the card in the same way the other person offers it to you.

If the person you’re speaking to presents their card with two hands, accept it with two hands. This gesture is a practical way of overcoming any language or cultural barriers when networking abroad.

Maintain comfortable eye contact

You know that making eye contact is important, but how much? Too little and you may seem disinterested. Too much feels intense and a bit creepy.

Regular eye contact lasts about four to five seconds before you tend to look away. When you’re speaking to someone you’re comfortable around, you look the other person in the eye when talking or listening, then look away to reflect or ponder your next thought.

A good rule of thumb is 50/70: maintain eye contact 50% of the time when speaking and 70% when listening.

Put your business cards to work

You don’t always have to wait for a formal introduction to share your business card. Here are a couple of scenarios where sharing your card can feel personal even when you can’t introduce yourself in person.

Include your card in product packaging

Etsy sellers and other independent online business owners often include a business card in their packages. Adding a handwritten thank-you note alongside your business card makes the moment someone unboxes your parcel personal and memorable and encourages them to get in touch with you.

Create cards people can’t resist picking up

There are countless opportunities to leave your cards in various places from shops and restaurants to libraries and town halls. This makes it easy for people to find your contact details when they’re looking for a local provider. But if you want yours to stand out, it’s essential to make your business card irresistible.

Add business cards to your promo pack

When you package different marketing materials in a folder, you should include your business card at the front, so it’s the first thing people see when they open your information pack. Our presentation folders come with a pre-cut space to slot your card in with your contact details facing up.

Business card etiquette pointers: the do’s and don’ts

When receiving a business card

DO

  • Mirror the other person’s body language. If someone offers you a card with two hands, accept it with two hands. This builds rapport and helps overcome any language barriers.
  • Take a few seconds to read the card before storing it away. This shows you’re interested in the person you’re talking to.
  • Store the business card in your cardholder to keep it in good condition and to avoid forgetting to take it with you.

DON'T

  • Stuff the business card in your already packed wallet, put it in your back pocket and then sit on it. It’s not a good look.
  • Leave the other person’s card on the table. It’s good practice to store the card away as soon as you've taken the time to look at it. Leaving it behind will likely cause offence and make you look unprofessional.
  • Refuse someone’s card. Accept it, look at it, and put it somewhere safe. Even if you have no intention of contacting the person.

When sharing your business card

DO

  • Offer your business card with the contact details facing up. Present it with one or two hands depending on local customs.
  • Mind your manners. Always ask someone if you can give them your card first.
  • Keep your cards handy to avoid frantically rifling through your pockets.

DON'T

  • Jump the gun. Wait till you’re finishing up a conversation before asking to give your card to someone.
  • Give out a crumpled, dog-eared business card. Remember to store them in a rigid business card holder.
  • Gamble with your image. Never hand out business cards like your dealing cards at a casino.

Did you find this article helpful?

If you know anyone else who could benefit from these practical business card etiquette pointers, share this post with them.

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