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Business Cards: An Invitation to Build a Relationship

Around the world, the business card is often treated with a formality that is not evident in the United States. And that’s unfortunate because the business card is more than just a name and number on a piece of paper; it is an invitation to the recipient to build a relationship. Therefore, when the card is treated carefully and professionally, it indicates to the recipient that he can expect the same from the giver. Your business card defines who you are and what your position and responsibilities are. And it invites the recipient to contact you.

How a card is presented is important. Overseas when cards are exchanged, each person’s card is examined and appreciated before it is carefully put away, usually in a business card case. The recipient would not simply take it and stuff it into a pocket or purse without looking at it. Worse yet would be to tuck it into a back trouser pocket where the recipient would then be sitting on it. If you are traveling overseas, take the time to find out the particulars for offering and receiving a business card.

What should be on the card itself? Include the important basics: the name and position of the person, the company name, address, and the preferred phone number. Additional optional information includes email address, other phone number(s), and social media address(es). In addition, if you are traveling to a place where a different alphabet is used (Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese characters for example) having your information printed in that alphabet on the reverse side is a way to demonstrate respect.

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When should a card be offered? Offer your business card at the start of a meeting, after introductions have been made; at the end of a meeting; or at the conclusion of a conversation. I particularly like to exchange cards at the start of a meeting. I then can keep the cards discreetly on the table in front of me to help me remember each person’s name during the meeting.

More than once I have been at a meeting or conference where a person has inadvertently run out of business cards and has borrowed a colleague’s card and written his or her name on it. While this can work in a pinch, it is decidedly better to make sure you have enough cards to avoid this embarrassing alternative.

Business cards matter. They are an extension of you and help define your image with others. By taking time to appreciate the card of the person giving it to you, you honor that person and start building your relationship positively.

If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org. http://www.infiniteguest.org/awesome-etiquette/

Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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