The Proper Etiquette for Business Cards

September 15th, 2011 by Ryan

Especially when a huge batch of business cards comes in the mail, people want to give them out as quickly and to as many people as possible. The business world is an ocean, and everyone wants to cast his net wide to catch as many fish as possible. There’s definitely something to be said for that cast net marketing, but there’s also a time and a place for networking. A lot of people appear too eager, or pass out their cards at the wrong moment. To break proper business code will actually be worse for you in the long wrong. Buying business cards is just the first step; knowing how and when to use them properly will ensure they actually boost your professional reputation. To offer some direction, we’ve assembled some tips to follow for appropriate business card etiquette.


  1. Carry your business cards everywhere. Even social settings can turn into casual networking events, but don’t plan on it. Enjoy the time and the conversations for what they are: social. People go to parties and gallery openings to leave the stress of work behind and just have fun. Forcing the conversation to your work or services will come across pushy, inconsiderate, and desperate. But, if you just happen to talk about work with a possible business contact, it’s better to have your cards on hand than not.
  2. Take your time. Even if you’ve been waiting all year to meet a potential client, let the conversation move naturally before you offer him one of your business cards. Make sure there’s a good business connection first, and then ask to exchange cards as the conversation wraps up. Rather than look like you only want his money, you’ll seem interested in him as person, like you want to continue the dialogue you two have already begun.
  3. Receive them well. Traditionally, people keep their own cards in the right pocket of their suit and store the cards they’ve received in the left. If you’ve met an especially promising business contact, after exchanging cards, find a secluded place to discreetly write down conversational highlights. But accept all cards gratefully; even if you don’t want to keep some contacts, wait to throw away their cards at home. Your business cards represent you as a professional, and the cards of others do the same. Be respectful of that, and take the time to look at any card before you slip it in your pocket.
  4. Keep your business cards pristine. Because they’re so representative of you and your business, it’s essential you maintain them well. Present the card face up, so your contact can immediately read the information. To be sure your cards don’t bend inside your pocket, consider investing in a case. You should never give out cards with rips, stains, or dated information.
  5. Research international customs. These etiquette tips are fine for America, but every country has unique rules and habits for exchanging business cards. If you work abroad, even once or twice a year, it’s important to maintain proper behavior to network properly.

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