BEFORE you leave to “work the room” at any business event or gathering, be sure you have your business cards ready to go with you.
Before there were business cards, there were calling cards, and their function was similar.
Handing out business cards tells people your name, company and position, and gives them a way to contact you in the future.
I have met a number of people at “techie” events who humblebrag about “not having had a business card in five years”.
That may work for a specific group of peers. But what if you are considering a career pivot, or trying to make contacts and establish connections with venture capitalists of the “card exchange” generation?
You are out of luck.
Ignore the buzz that business cards are dead.
Most of us benefit by having a card to offer. The purpose of business cards is to give people a tangible, physical way to remember you and something they can slip directly into their card files or scan into their contact-management programs.
This is also how you should use other people’s cards.
Guidelines for business cards
• Make your card easy to read. Make sure that your name, your company name and your numbers are readable.
• Select an easily readable typeface. Choose one that is big enough and clear enough so that no one needs a magnifying glass to read your card.
• Forget the fancy designs. Fold-over cards still don’t work in a card file holder or Rolodex that is still found on desks in the C-Suite.
Neither do vertical cards or the latest craze of undersized mini-model cards. Watch out for designs that obscure the numbers.
• E-mail addresses should be bold and easy to read. Website addresses should also be in a bold typeface to stand out.
Place your phone number last, after your fax number, if you have one. You may want to include your Skype name/number and your Twitter name.
Some executives write their mobile number on the card as they give it out, adding a personal touch.
• Be organised. Devise a system for carrying your own cards and for collecting cards from others.
I keep a clear plastic card case in my purse with a baseball card as a divider between my cards and the ones I collect.
Adding a person to your database or filing a card is helpful only if you can retrieve them by remembering the person’s name and why you wanted to contact that particular person.
Many people just snap a photo and add the person to the mobile address book. The next tip will help you remember.
• Jog your memory. Write a mnemonic device on the other person’s card — as soon as possible — to help you remember who he is.
If he said something interesting, ask permission to write it down. If you plan on scanning the card, do not write on the front of it.
• Bring enough cards. No one wants to take home a used napkin — even if it has your name and number on it. Napkins don’t fit well into anyone’s pocket, purse or Rolodex.
The excuse that “I just gave out my last card” reflects poor planning.
No one is impressed by how many people you met moving down the buffet line.
• Never leave home without them. As your mother might say: “You never know who you’ll run into.”
• Be direct. “May I have your card?” is the best question to ask if you want someone’s card.
Most people will respond in kind, especially if you hold your own card conspicuously, as if you are ready to trade.
“May I offer you my card?” is clear and polite.
• Avoid ‘sticky’ situations. Don’t reach for the buffet with one hand and your card with the other. No one wants to take home a card caked with sweet and sour sauce.
Let’s borrow from the Japanese tradition: When you receive a card, honour it by looking at it and looking at the person.
Perhaps you can make a comment about the card. In The Secrets of Savvy Networking, I wrote that honouring a card helps you remember people.
If your company does not provide you with a card, there are sites that will help you design your own business cards. So will your local print shop.
A card is the best way to exchange information. And then, follow up!
Article by Susan RoAne, an in-demand international speaker and best-selling author. These tips were adapted from the silver anniversary, newly revised edition of her book, How To Work a Room. This article was published on executive speech coach and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Patricia Fripp’s website at www.fripp.com