Whether you are a junior executive or a company director, you should always make sure that you have an ample supply of business cards whenever you leave your office. We may live in a digital world where the majority of communications take place over the internet but when it comes to swapping contact details with potential customers, business cards in Perth and elsewhere are still the most widely accepted tool in popular use. This is something of which you are undoubtedly already aware but what you may not know is when and how you should hand over your business cards. Should you present them as soon as you meet a potential new contact or should you wait until you are about to part ways? Is it acceptable to hand them out en masse when attending conferences, like promotional brochures, or should you take a more selective approach? These questions and more will be answered below.
Choosing the Right Moment to Present Your Business Card
As with many things in life, timing is everything, and there are a number of important factors to consider when presenting your business card to prospective clients and potentially useful industry contacts.
- Cultural Differences – Business cards are used in countries all over the world but they are not always presented in precisely the same way. While examining the question of when to hand over your card, you need to consider the cultural norms of the people with whom you are meeting. For example: Chinese executives like to know exactly who they are speaking to when discussing business matters so it is a good idea to offer your card earlier rather than later when meeting with men and women from this part of the world. You should also make sure that the reverse of your card contains all of your contact details translated into Chinese as this will make a much better impression than presenting a card with only English language details printed on it.
If you are meeting with Japanese executives, timing is easier to gauge. The highest-ranking executives will present their cards first and the most junior will present theirs last. As long as you know your own place in the corporate hierarchy, you will be able to follow their lead and present your business card at the appropriate moment.
In Western Australia, it is common practice to present business cards when a meeting or informal conversation is coming to a close so if you are in Perth and you are meeting local company executives, it is a good idea to follow this convention.
- Who Initiated the Conversation? – When attending events such as industry conferences and expos, where many informal meetings take place throughout the course of each day, it is important to consider who initiated the conversation before you proffer your business card to a new contact. If you initiated the conversation, it may appear rude and presumptuous to hand over your card soon after you begin speaking. The best approach is to wait until it is asked for or, failing that, to offer it at the end of the conversation. You should really only provide someone with your contact details if they have expressed an interest in what you have to say or asked for them explicitly. To do otherwise could make you appear desperate, ill-mannered or just plain inexperienced: all qualities that you will obviously wish to avoid displaying when meeting new contacts for the very first time.
- Current Industry Trends – One factor that more experienced executives may fail to take into consideration when handing over business cards at meetings or corporate events is whether attitudes toward this practice in their industry have changed in recent years. If, for example, you are representing a company that specializes in advising commercial organizations on how to handle sensitive environmental issues, you will definitely want to take a more discriminating approach to business card distribution than, say, someone who represents a printing firm would. For such executives, it would be prudent to only hand over a business card when a new contact asks for one. You may, however, work in an industry where it is now common practice to present cards to all new contacts as soon as you meet them, in which case you will want to adapt your approach accordingly.
- The Nature of the Meeting – If you are having a face-to-face meeting with a single executive from a company that you hope to do business with in the future, you will almost certainly want to exchange business cards at some point during the proceedings, most probably when asked to do so. On the other hand, if you are attending a large industry conference at which you expect to speak with dozens of potential customers and contacts, you should take a more conservative approach to presenting your business card. If you are seen to be handing over your card at every opportunity, taking what is often known as a spray and pray approach, you will not only devalue your business card in the eyes of those at the event, but call your own judgement into question at the same time. To avoid both of these possibilities, try to establish whether the person you are talking to is likely to be a useful contact in the future before you actually offer them your business card.
- Your Position – While the practice of handing out business cards in Perth and the rest of the country may not follow the same strict hierarchical rules observed by Japanese executives, it is still a good idea to consider your position on the corporate ladder and compare it to the position of those with whom you are meeting before you offer your card. Junior executives who present their business cards prematurely to senior managers and directors may develop a reputation for having poor interpersonal skills or for being unaware of the basic rules of engagement at corporate meetings. However, even senior executives need to exercise discretion when it comes to presenting their business cards and it is always vital to think about what you are trying to achieve by doing so. If you are hoping to gain a new client, you should, of course, take a more subtle approach than if you are simply offering a junior colleague the chance to network with you in the future.
- Whether You Have Met Previously – Your approach to swapping contact details at events where many informal meetings take place, such as exhibitions, conferences and corporate celebrations, should be more laid back than for other, more formal, occasions. If possible, it may be preferable to leave the exchange of business cards until a second or third meeting, although this will, of course, depend on the likelihood of you having another chance meeting with the individual in question. You can determine the odds of a future chance meeting by steering the conversation in a certain direction: ask your new contact if they often attend events such as the one you are currently attending and try to ascertain whether you are both likely to be attending the same events in the coming weeks and months. If you are, it may be a good idea to wait until a later date before you present your business card, unless they ask for it of course.
Other Considerations When Presenting Your Business Card
Whilst timing is of prime importance, there are a few other crucial factors to take into account when you are offering your business card to someone you have just met:
- How You Present Your Card – Keep your cards in a small container or place a few in the side pocket of your jacket rather than in your wallet. Nobody will be impressed if you pull out a large pile of creased business cards when asked for your contact details.
- Don’t Write Notes Unless Requested – Writing your home number or other notes on your business card is acceptable if you are specifically asked to do so but if this is not the case, most people will not appreciate it. If you wish to provide someone with more information than your card contains it is usually best to write this information on a separate piece of paper and hand it over afterwards.
- Ask for A Card in Return – If somebody expresses an interest in staying in touch with you, return the compliment by asking for their card after you have presented them with yours. Failure to do so may be interpreted as a snub, which is something you will obviously want to avoid when cultivating new contacts.
If you want to make sure that your business card is well received every time that you present it, you should have it designed and printed by a team of professionals. At Greenlea Print, we have a great deal of experience in this field and would be delighted to provide you with all the assistance you need. Please feel free to call or email whenever convenient to discuss your requirements with a member of our team.