10 Tips For Correct Business Card Etiquette

Businessmen exchanging their visiting cards
Exchanging business cards is often the first step in establishing a successful professional relationship. Ensure always to have your cards to hand, stored neatly and professionally, and keep eye contact when handing them over. When receiving cards, mimic your partner’s body language, take time to read and react to the card, and store it neatly and with care.

1. Print More Than Necessary

Always ensure you have enough business cards. Nothing looks less professional – or gives a worse first impression than needing it on hand and not having one available.

Consider printing more than you need. This is especially true at networking events, where potential clients meet hundreds of contacts and can’t be expected to remember everyone. Make sure you aren’t caught short.

2. Keep Them on Hand!

Exchanging business cards is often the first interaction two people have, and it’s a chance to make a great first impression. You want to come across as a confident and capable potential business partner, and fumbling through a bag is not the positive impression you’re looking for.

Always have business cards within easy reach. You never know when you might meet a new contact or client, so ensure your card case is easily and quickly accessible. It can also be a good idea to have cards in your car, suit pockets, bags, etc., just in case you meet someone unexpectedly.

3. Organisation is Key

Ensure you keep your business cards neat in a professional business card holder. This might seem unimportant, but picture a scene: you’re at a business meeting, and your new contact scoops loose cards out the bottom of his bag and hands them to you. Does that paint the picture of an organized, reliable new business partner?

4. Update Your Info!

A huge business card faux pas is handing out business cards with incorrect information on them. At best, this will make you look unprofessional, unreliable, and slap-dash; at worst, it could lose you a client if they are not able to contact you for a follow-up phone call.

Any time you have a change in information, print new business cards. Though this can sound like a waste, having up-to-date contact information is the most important part of a person’s business card.

5. It’s All About the Hands

businesswoman giving her business card to a prospect
Follow the business card giver’s lead while receiving it

Different business cultures have different etiquette for exchanging business cards. In some cultures, such as Japan, meishi (Japanese business cards) must be exchanged with two hands. In other cultures, such as Saudi Arabia, they should only be passed and accepted with the right hand.

Before you travel to a new country for international business, look up some business card etiquette tips. If you are unsure, use your right hand – for many cultures around the world, the left hand can be considered unclean.

6. Maintain Eye Contact

maintain eye contact while exchanging business card
Maintain eye contact while exchanging business card

Keeping eye contact is important to present strong and confident body language. Looking away can be considered weak or even rude in places around the world. Just as with a handshake, keeping eye contact presents you as a capable partner when exchanging cards.

7. Read and Respond

Make sure you acknowledge the other person’s card when receiving business cards. Simply sticking a card in your back pocket could be seen as disrespectful. Instead, read and compliment your partner on their card design or impressive titles to show you are taking a special interest in them as a person.

8. Don’t Hand Out Too Many!

Business card faux pas
Don’t give a business card to every person you meet

You don’t need to give a business card to every person you meet! According to Adobe, 88% of them are thrown away within a week. Handing them to people who have no use for them can come across as pushy and is a waste of your cards. It can also make you look naive and incompetent and spread a bad reputation.

Only give a card if a client expresses an interest in your service. Use the exchange of business cards to formalize their interest, handing over your phone number and other details so they can contact you down the line.

9. What’s the Point?

When handing it over, explain why you are giving it to them. This links to the point above: nobody wants a business card thrust in their face when they have no need for it.

Good potential reasons include: ‘If you want to discuss this further, here are my contact details’; or, ‘As you can see by my titles, I’m clearly qualified for this position.’ Not only do these statements show confidence in your own abilities, they subconsciously reinforce them to your business partner.

10. Be Professional

Make sure that you are treating the other person’s card with respect and professionalism. For example, some people like to write notes on the cards they receive to remind them of the conversation. It is always good practice to ask whether someone minds before scribbling on their card.

Make sure to store any business cards you receive carefully and politely. Dropping them in your bag or pocket can inadvertently demonstrate a lack of care and interest; place them neatly into a business card case instead.

Business card etiquette do’s and don’ts

Do’s ✅Don’ts ❌
Follow the other person’s lead when receiving cards (i.e., if they are passed with the right hand, accept them with the right hand).Refuse somebody’s card.
Read and respond to the card before storing it. Complimenting its design can be useful.Forget to update your details.
Store all received cards neatly and politely to show care and respect.Store it messily or without care.

Business card etiquette around the world

When to give a business card?

  • When somebody asks for it
  • If somebody expresses an interest in your service/skills
  • If a potential business partner mentions contacting you in the future

When to ask for a business card?

  • Ask for a business card if you need to contact someone going forward
  • If your companies/businesses could be mutually beneficial to each other
  • If somebody impresses you and you want to remember them for future dealings

What is the most important information to put on a business card?

  • Business address
  • Company social media pages
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Titles and academic qualifications

What should you not put on a business card?

  • Employment history
  • Home address
  • Personal social media pages

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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