Are Business Cards Dead? Make What You Do Obvious

Two People Sharing Business Card
When you receive a card, honor it by looking at it and looking at the person who has given it to you.

“Hello” can lead to a conversation. A conversation can lead to a relationship. A relationship can lead to profitable business. My friend and colleague, Susan RoAne is an expert in turning small talk into big business.  Her book, How to Work a Room, is a bestseller. In a recent television interview, Susan explained that success in business comes from being able to make connections – both online and in personI like to remind people that even a conversation in an elevator or at the water cooler can do as much to boost your career as delivering a formal presentation. As you form new relationships at business events, use your words and your business cards to make what you do obvious.  Here are ten of Susan’s helpful tips to help you benefit from business cards:

It’s in The (Business) Cards
The Top 10 Card Tips
by Susan RoAne

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’ve 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. What if you’re considering a career pivot, or trying to make contacts and establish connections with venture capitalists of the ‘card exchange’ generation? You’re 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, scan into their contact-management programs, or use the CardMunch app to snap a photo that automatically converts to a LinkedIn contact. This is also how you should use other people’s cards.

How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne
How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne

Guidelines for Business Cards

1. Make your card easy to read; making sure that your name, your company name, and your numbers are readable.

2. Select an easily readable typeface that is big enough and clear enough so that no one needs a magnifying glass or four-foot arms to read your card. I visited a post about unusual business cards and that they were.

3. Fold-over cards still don’t work in a card file holder/Rolodex™ that are still found on desks in the C-Suite. Neither do vertical cards or the latest craze of undersized mini-model cards. Forget the fancy designs that obscure the numbers.

4. Email 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 cell numbers on the card as they give it out, adding a personal touch.

5. 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.

6. Write a mnemonic device on the other person’s card—as soon as possible—to help you remember who they are. If they said something interesting, ask permission to write it down. If you plan on scanning the card, do not write on the front of it.

7. Bring enough cards. I learned from my “femtor,” the late Sally Livingston, no one wanted to take home a used napkin—even if it had my 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 we met moving down the buffet from the Brie to the bagels.

8. Never leave home without them! As Mom says, “You never know who you’ll run into.” Mother did, on occasion, split an infinitive.

9. “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.

10. 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.

Bestselling Author, Professional Keynote Speaker - Susan RoAne, "The Mingling Maven"
Bestselling Author, Professional Keynote Speaker – Susan RoAne, “The Mingling Maven”

Let’s borrow from the Japanese tradition: When you receive a card, honor it by looking at it, looking at the person. Perhaps you can make a comment about the card. In The Secrets of Savvy Networking I wrote that honoring a card helps you remember people.

If your company doesn’t provide you with a card, there are sites that will sell you and 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!

These tips were adapted from the Silver Anniversary of the Newly Revised edition of How To Work a Room®. Best-selling author Susan RoAne is also an in-demand international speaker for clients including: UnitedHealth Group, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, Kraft Foods, United States Air Force, PA Consulting (UK), Boeing, PriceWaterHouse, City National Bank and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, NBC11, BBC and Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Thank you Susan!

“There is no point in going anywhere if people don’t remember you were there.” – Patricia Fripp

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