Business Card Protocol – Business & Social Etiquette Blog

bus-cardYour business card is a representation of yourself on paper, it is therefore essential that your card is of the best possible quality – made with good quality card. A white card with black print is the most formal. The card should have the name of your company and your name with e-mail address, website and any telephone numbers. If appropriate put your credentials or qualifications on the card. You can also list the services you provide on the back of your card if appropriate. Your card should be in excellent condition when handing it over.

Presenting your business card

Your business card should be presented with your right hand. In some countries it is an insult to present your business card with your left hand. Never pass your card as though you were dealing from a pack of cards. In some countries like Ghana, China and Japan the business card is presented with both hands. When handing your card look the person in the eye and smile.

Receiving a business card

When receiving a business card, accept it the same way it was presented either in your right hand or both hands.  Never just put it away in your bag or pocket. Look at the card and make a comment either about the card or the information on the card before putting it away. It is not appropriate to put the card into your back pocket; if possible use a separate business card case to put any cards in. When you are back at work or in your office, add the information from the card into your database as soon as possible.

Some cultural issues with business cards

If you travel abroad for business, always do your homework for whichever country you are going to. It is usually appropriate to use dual sided cards and have your card translated into the language of the country you are visiting on the reverse. To arrive at a business meeting without a translated Asian business card does almost irreparable damage to the relationship; it is tantamount to refusing to shake hands at a western business meeting.

There is a variation of when you exchange business cards depending on the country. In China you exchange the card when meeting. It is best to stand up and make sure that you hold the card with two hands, Chinese side up, with your name facing the person you are offering the card to so that it can be read. Do not put a stack of your cards on a table and offer others to take a card from the stack. Never write comments on another person’s business card in their presence.

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In Japan, business cards are called meishi (may-she). The giving and receiving of business cards in Japan is very important. You would offer your card at the beginning of the meeting, holding it with two hands and bow slightly. When receiving a card from someone else, accept it also with two hands. Treat the card with respect and do not fidget with it.  Again make a comment about something on the card.  By the end of the meeting you will probably have a number of cards in front of you, put the cards in a business card case, a wallet or briefcase.

About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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