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Business Card Etiquette

Imagine, we are in the process of preparing for a business meeting, which requires working knowledge of the information to be discussed or presented, and careful attention to all details.

Very often, the last thing we put in our briefcase or in our pockets before we leave the office, is a bunch of our business cards. - Yes, we are good at that!

Does it mean that we consider the business card as less important? Or does it mean that we do not know how important our business card is? - I reckon many people never gave it a thought.

The business card is in fact a very important part of our showmanship, and it is one of the first things about us that our potential business partners gets to see.

What else are we good at? Well, we rush to our meeting, arrive in the last minute, shake hands politely with our business counterparts when attending - thereafter we exchange business cards directly from our pocket with our left hand and shove the received cards immediately down the other pocket without giving them as much as a glance.

At this stage we have already forgotten the names of the people we are introduced to, and we have no idea about their ranks or positions. - Yes, we are good at that, too! It says quite a lot about us already after the first most important minutes of a meeting, don't you agree!

Breech of protocol

Business cards are often exchanged with no formality or consequence, and served as nothing more than an internationally recognized way to exchange contact information or simply as a handy bit of paper.

Is it lack of interest or disrespect for our future business partners that is reflected in the above mentioned way of presenting and receiving business cards? Or is it bad manners?

The idea about the business card is in fact a help to convince your potential business partners that you have the answer to what they have been looking for.

Many of us have done business in Asia countries where the business cards are regarded as an extension of the individual, and we have learned that the card must be treated with honor and respect.

The exchange of cards in certain countries is therefore attended with great ritual, and a breech of protocol can give serious offense.

In many other countries are business cards exchanged without any special ritual, but the rule is still there, we must follow protocol.

Business Card Etiquette

We will have to learn to do it right sooner or later, so you ought to continue reading. - By the way, do you have a business card case? No? Buy one, a nice card case to keep in your jacket's inner pocket. 

When presenting a business card, open your business card case and pick up one card.

  • The card must be clean without any notes or breaches.
  • Hold the card by the edges, and deliver it with your right hand.
  • If you are at a meeting with Asian business people, you should deliver the card with both hands, and recieve a card with both hands..
  • Remember to deliver the card in a way that immediately makes it readable for the receiver.

When doing business abroad, a business card's reverge side ought to be translated into the language of the business counterpart.

  • Is your card translated into the receiver's language, deliver it with the translated side up, ready to be read by the receiver.

Remember, in many parts of the world it is considered very rude to present a card with your left hand, or shove a received card away or directly into one of your pockets.

When being handed a business card, receive it with your right hand or both hands.

  • Hold the card by the edges, thank the person and read the card. 
  • Are you at a meeting with Asian business people, receive the card with both hands
  • Use ten-fifteen seconds to read what is written on the business card. It shows your interest and respect, and it will give you a chance to actually learn something about the person and company. It might be a good start of  meaningful conversation.
  • You will convey disrespect if you immediately grab the card and shove it into your pocket.
  • If you are at a reception, put the received card into your card etui after reading it, and not into one of your pockets.

When you are at a meeting, place the cards in front of you on the table. It is in fact an excellent way to address your counterparts with their names and correct titles. It shows clearly your interest and respect, and will definitely be appreciated!

You should never write anything on the cards you receive! If you wish to write notes about the people you just have met, - wait until the meeting is over, and use a small note book to write the names of people you just have met, the date of the meeting and things you wish to remember.

When using a notebook, you will always have references about your business friends - which also is important when you are doing business in countries where business relations are based on personal relationship.