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3 Rules of Business Card Etiquette

Robin Reshwan

The business card -- an often underestimated workhorse of networking -- can be a powerful tool in forging new and memorable relationships. However, many people have never stopped to think about the rules regarding the small but mighty card. Remember these tips before you hand over your contact information in the business world:

1. Make an impact. A great card is sturdy, informative and makes it easy for the recipient to interact with and remember you. Here are a few ways to ensure your card has the intended effect:

-- Your name and company name should jump out at the reader and be very legible. Choose a clear, bold font, and think about where to place your name and logo for maximum impact.

-- Make sure your card helps the reader understand your role and business. (A tagline or a few phrases that describe your business will help.) The card also serves as an easy memory jogger after the initial introduction so new connections can remember what you do and why they should contact you.

-- Include up-to-date contact information. You want to make it simple to get in touch with you, and direct dial numbers, QR codes and email addresses ensure ease of access.

2. Expect the unexpected. Nothing makes a statement more than handing someone the wrinkled and smudged card that was buried at the bottom of your purse. That's not a good statement, of course, but one that conveys lack of preparation.

Store cards in a place that protects them and makes them easy to find when you are busy and distracted. After all, often the time you want a card is when you started a conversation with someone who unexpectedly turned into a potential contact.

There is a subtle power to swiftly pulling out a pristine card and handing it over to your new connection as you rush off to your next engagement. If you have to stop, put down your things, unload your bag and then find that ratty card, you may have just undone your great first impression. After all, luck is said to be when opportunity meets preparation, so your card storage can play a role in creating some luck.

3. Be respectful. If possible, begin an interview or professional exchange by politely handing your card to the others in the meeting. While it is not always possible to directly offer your card from hand to hand, you may also place the card in front of their notebook or seat. This first step shows you are professional, but it also helps others remember your name in the meeting.

When offered someone else's card, take a moment to look at it. Remember: The giver may have spent time preparing that card, so your appreciation goes a long way. After reviewing, consider placing the card on the table right above your notebook, so you can glance at it during the meeting. Make sure you remember to take the card with you at the end of the meeting.

In summary, treat a business card like a gift. Be thoughtful in its selection, careful in its wrapping and hand it over securely at the best possible time. On the receiving end, thank the recipient, take note of its highlights, appreciate the gesture and always take it with you when you go.

Of course, the greatest power of a business card is actually the follow-up on it after the initial meeting. Send a LinkedIn connection request and a follow-up email after exchanging cards to remind the connection of your mutual interests or how you could both benefit from a connection. After all, the main purpose is to facilitate new relationships. When you start off with a solid foundation, relationships are easier to build.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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