Business Card Etiquette: Ensuring That Your Card Makes an Impact

Whether you’re networking or trying to impress a potential client at a conference, a business card is an excellent tool to ensure the other person has your contact details. It’s often one of the first impressions that people have of you, as well as your brand, so giving a card is an important part of the business transaction. However, some people find it difficult to choose a moment to give their card, and when overseas, they’re often unsure when and how a business card should be given. Here’s a guide to how business cards should be presented, and how to make the most out of this useful tool.

Presenting your card professionally

Firstly, it’s important that your card make a good impression, so don’t just use an internet company to print them off cheaply. If you are looking for business cards in Perth, it’s important to use an established company who specialise in creating high-quality cards. Keep them in a business card holder, so they don’t get creased in your pocket, and this will also save you from fumbling around trying to find a card.

Exchanging cards in Australia

When you are doing business in Australia, there are a few simple rules about handing out business cards. Make sure you:

  • Only hand out your cards to people who seem genuinely interested. Forcing your card on everyone at a networking event is the real-world equivalent of spam and it looks desperate
  • Hand over your card as the conversation is coming to an end – this will ensure you’ve had time to discuss your products and services
  • Scribble a note on the back of your business card before handing it over. Just a quick note about something you’ve discussed will help jog their memory
  • When someone gives you their card, don’t just shove it in your pocket. Take time to look at the card, give a positive comment, or ask a question. That way, they know you aren’t just being polite, and can be assured you’ll be in touch. However, it can be seen as rude to write notes on their card, so only do it once you are out of sight

Doing business in Japan

Japan has a strict business culture, and protocol around the exchanging around business cards. Ideally, you should have cards made with a Japanese translation on the back. It’s polite and respectful to give them something in their own language.

Japan has a very hierarchal culture compared to Australia, so those in the highest ranking will exchange business cards first, then second highest, etc. This is a practical way to do things, as it means everyone in the room knows who the decision makers are.

When you present a card, you should be standing up, and the card should be handed over with the Japanese side up, text facing away from you so they can read it. There’s a particular way of holding a business card as you present it, so use both hands to hold it by the top corners, ensuring you don’t cover the text, and give a slight bow as you present. Once you have taken their card, it’s considered impolite to tuck it away, so keep it next to you on the table. If you receive more than one card, arrange them on the table in the seating order, which will also help you remember names.

Chinese business cards

The Chinese also take business card exchanges seriously, so when you are doing business in China make sure you:

  • Use both hands and keep business cards on display during a meeting
  • Get your card translated – it’s considered very disrespectful to hand over a card that’s just in English
  • Make sure you get the translation into the correct language. For mainland China, use simplified Chinese, and in Taiwan use traditional characters
  • Never write on someone else’s card in front of them

Indian business cards

Business people from Australia who are doing business in India will notice that most people speak good English, so a translated version of your card shouldn’t be necessary. However, it’s important to understand that in Indian culture, education and qualifications are important, so you might want to use the relevant letters under your name, or add your professional qualifications.

Indian people only use their right hand when eating, as the left hand is seen as unclean, so always present your business card with your right hand too.

Presenting business cards in Germany

While there’s no major ceremonies or bowing needed when presenting a business card in Germany, it’s important to note that they have a more personal meaning in the country. Germans don’t hand out their business cards en masse like in Australia, and a business card represents a one on one business relationship. Therefore, if you’re networking in Germany and get a business card, you can be sure they’re sincere about working with you.

Business cards in the Middle East

If you’re doing business in the Middle East, have cards printed in Arabic and English, perhaps with one language on each side. Arabic is read from right to left, so you may want to create a design that takes this into account. Always handle business cards, and other objects including food, with your right hand, as the Middle East have a similar belief to India that the left hand is dirty. Business is often more relaxed in the Middle East, with businesspeople combining their personal and professional lives more closely, so the exchanging of business cards should be a friendly gesture as well as having a professional meaning.

Every country has its own business culture, and that means it’s important to learn the etiquette before you leave Australia. While some countries are more forgiving of clumsy foreigners, some businesspeople will feel disrespected if you haven’t followed their cultural norms, putting you on the wrong foot. A few simple gestures such as getting your business cards translated, and ensuring you know when and how to present the card, ensures you create a great first impression.