I see it time and time again…people who show up at networking events without their business card “game” on.
They apparently don’t realize that business cards are an important way for people to remember whom they met and to be able to easily contact the people with whom they really want to connect in the future. Perhaps they have a follow-up question to ask, or a referral to pass on, or they want to do business with that person.
Without their contact information, re-connecting is nearly impossible. Some tech-savvy folks could argue that they can easily “find” the person’s company information on-line. This is possible, but unlikely, once life takes over one’s schedule. I’ve often heard, “Oh, yeah, I don’t have any cards on me…I’ll just take yours and then I’ll email you my information later today.” Result: the email rarely happens, again, because life takes over and this task moves out of our minds.
Fact: the business card is still the gold standard of conveying contact information at business meetings and networking events.
People still exchange cards on airplanes, in restaurants and at other less-formal meetings and social gatherings. The business card is the easiest way to share a little about oneself while providing valuable information about how you can be contacted in the future.
4 Major Business Card Errors
So, what are major errors people make with business cards?
- No cards/Not enough cards
- Using outdated cards
- Handing cards out indiscriminately
- Putting others’ cards away too soon
#1 No Cards
We’ve already started to discuss the first one: Not having your cards available when you need them.
Not having your cards with you might tell the other person a few things about you:
- You don’t plan very well;
- You aren’t very detail-oriented;
- You’re not serious about your business; and/or,
- You aren’t looking for any more business.
None of these may be true but perception is often reality. Why give the other person a negative first impression of you? Always carry enough cards with you so that you never run out.
#2 Using outdated cards
Sometimes at networking events or other business functions I receive someone’s card that has the “old” information scratched through and the “new” information scribbled above, beneath or to the side of the outdated information. My first thought is, “wow…that’s not very professional.” As was mentioned in Business Card Tip #1, this could leave someone with the impression that: 1) you don’t plan well; 2) you can’t afford new cards; 3) you’re not very organized; etc.
That said, sometimes circumstances occur where you are just “stuck” (for whatever reason) with the old cards for a few events. Thus, you conclude that the “best” thing to do is to update them by hand. Great idea…until it’s not.
Unless you have your grandmother edit your cards for you, (they always have great handwriting and penmanship, at least mine did! <wink>), just reprint them. Since most of us don’t have great handwriting the “fixed” card looks cheap and unprofessional. This can be especially damaging to your first impression, depending on what your occupation is. Imagine receiving a “fixed” card from someone whose job is all about image and attention to details (wedding planner, accountant, attorney, doctor, etc.). How much would you trust that person to handle detailed transactions for you if they didn’t seem to have a good grip on their own details? Even if you have to print “temporary” plain white cards on your printer until your official cards are delivered, do it.
Tip: Most stationary manufacturers offer pre-scored/cut business card stock that works in most home office printers.
#3 – Giving everyone a card
Giving everyone you meet a card is poor form and reeks of desperation (even if you’re not desperate to get new business, it looks like it!). Only hand cards to people who ask for them. You can use the same strategy…only ask people for a card if you really want to connect with them again in the future.
At the end of the day, handing your cards out to everyone, even folks who don’t ask for one, doesn’t mean you now have a bunch of new connections. Allow the other person to ask you for your card. This indicates that they have an interest in finding out more about you and your business or that they might have an idea of someone else with whom they could connect you.
#4 – Pocketing others’ cards too soon
When you ask someone for her card and she hands you one, avoid the urge to immediately stick the card in your pocket.
Men are especially prone to this because they usually have a shirt pocket or a jacket pocket where they can easily deposit the card to keep their hands free.
Bad idea! Why? Because once you’ve deposited the other person’s business card you no longer have access to the information on it without digging for it…especially the person’s name. Unless this person has on a name tag and/or you have a really good memory for names, you are probably not going to remember his/her name.
So what should you do instead? Hold on to the other person’s card until you exit the conversation. That’s right…hold it in your hand until you are finished talking to this person.