Business Card Etiquette – How To Use and Present Your Business Card Professionally


Business card with smiley face on itYour business cards can say a lot about you and your business. However, so can the way you present them. Believe it or not, there is actually a business card etiquette, which many, perhaps most, people do not know or understand.

It’s something that I too was unaware of until relatively recently. However, after doing some research on the subject, I learned a number of ways in which we can earn the other person’s respect and create a much better first impression, in the way we hand over our business cards and receive other people’s cards.

So, I’d like to share with you 3 rules of etiquette in relation to your business cards:

1) Be Respectful Of Others’ Culture And/Or Position

When someone offers you their business card, it’s important that you keep in mind their professional position and culture. Showing respect for a person’s position and/or culture will make you more attractive to them, they’ll be more likely to want to do business with you. Whereas, if you show disrespect for them – whether knowingly or unknowingly – you’ll create the wrong first impression and lose them before you even start.

Oriental businessman give business card with both hand

In Far Eastern Cultures, Business Cards Are Given and Received With Both Hands.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

In some cultures, such as The Far East, giving a business card is considered to be on a par with giving a gift. When someone from such cultures hands you their card, they will hand it to you with both hands, head bowed, their details directed to you to read, as if offering you a special gift. And there is an etiquette to receiving their card too: Mirror them. Take it from them with both hands, thank them, and take a few seconds to read their card, in order to acknowledge it and them. Also, never write on their business card in front of them. This is considered highly disrespectful, in such cultures, and would be akin to someone receiving a gift from you then chucking it to one side dismissively.

It’s also important to respect the other person’s position. If they’re of a higher/more senior position than you, for example, if they are a company executive, it may be considered disrespectful to them if you offer your business card before they have offered you theirs. Waiting for them to offer their card first shows them respect for their position. Never ask directly for it. If you’ve had a good conversation with such a person and want to further the discussion, you might say something like, “It’s been very good speaking to you, how may we continue our conversation at a later time?” If they wish to further the conversation too, then they’ll offer you their business card.

2) Ask Permission

It’s important to get the other person’s permission before giving them your card. This shows respect for them as an individual. No one likes stuff being thrust upon them. So, never just thrust your card brashly at someone. If you’ve had a good conversation, ask their permission to give them your business card (unless, of course, they’ve already asked for your card). If they don’t want it, then respect that and move on. Again, remember to respect their level of seniority, if they’re a higher position to you, by letting them initiate the exchange.

Also, you want to be sure to get their card too, so that you can follow up. So, you might say something like, “It’s been great talking to you. Do you mind if we exchange cards, so we can continue our conversation later?”

3) Connections Are Only Made When You Follow Up.

When you receive a business card, it’s important to thank the person who gave it to you and assure them that you will follow up – and then to follow through, by making the follow up.

Personally, I like to start by connecting on LinkedIn. That way, I have a permanent record of their details. So, I will ask the other person if they’re on LinkedIn and if I may connect with them in this way. They then know to expect my connection request. Occasionally, I get someone who’s really switched on and will pre-empt me, by connect with me before I get a chance to connect with them first.

Connecting on LinkedIn, however, is only the first step in following up. After the connection has been made, you need to make a phone call and, if appropriate, arrange to meet for a one-to-one. By doing this, you will stand out and they’re more likely to remember you.

Two points to remember on this:

  1. Ask if it’s convenient for them to talk and
  2. keep the conversation brief.

This shows respect for their most valuable resource – their time.

This second part of the follow up – making the phone call – is the hardest part for most, including me. I have found, however, that when I do follow through on this, I’ve made some really valuable connections by doing so. So, I highly recommend picking up the phone and making that connection solid!

Here’s The Take Away For You:

So, here are the points, we’ve discussed over the past two articles (click here to read the previous article), for you to take away:

  • What Your Business Cards Say About You:
    • Business card templates are easy to spot and communicate lack of brand identity and/or lack of care about your professional image.
    • Free or cheap business cards communicate a lack of willingness, on your part, to invest in your business – so why should your customers invest in you?
    • Busy and/or hard to read business cards can communicate a lack of focus and/or forethought in regard to your branding or service offering.
  • How You Present Your Business Cards Creates A Lasting First Impression:
    • Be respectful of the other person’s position and/or culture.
    • Ask permission before giving your card.
    • Connections are only made when you follow up.

By following these principles, regarding business card etiquette, you will make a much better impression and be more successful in your networking endeavours.

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Who Is Jae-Lex Linsey?

Jae-Lex Linsey has worked with business owners, guiding and supporting them with their branding, since 2008. In that time, he has built a reputation for producing results-driven solutions, with precision and excellence.

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