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How to Exchange Business Cards Like a Gentleman

Career success is a combination of many factors: qualifications, experience, soft skills, a little bit of luck and a lot of networking. It is important to put yourself out there and make sure people know you exist. Business cards serve this very goal, they are presented during an introduction with the purpose of subsequently acting as an aide-mémoire for both sides.

The gesture of exchanging business cards is a manifestation of your professionalism and speaks louder than words as to how you view yourself and others. So, when you are trying to make a good impression, a 3 piece suit and a world class attitude are great but not enough. Here’s what else you need to look out for.

8 rules you need to know about business card etiquette

1. Have some
Let’ start with the basics. Always carry a few business cards with you, because you never know who life might throw your way, and stock up when attending professional networking events. No one wants to present their business card, only to hear that you forgot yours or ran out.

2. How do I look?
Your business cards need to project class and professionalism. Invest in quality and think about layout and branding. Once your order arrives, keep your cards clean and safe from crumbling. Never hand out worn or dirty cards. If your details change, print new ones because it is extremely sloppy to amend them by hand.

3. There is a time and place for everything
Handing out your business card is not an aggressive sales pitch. Wait for the right moment, e.g. when the conversation turns from general introductions to business. Always ask for the other person’s card before handing out yours and never give out your card during a meal.

4. Presentation skills
Keep your business cards within reach to avoid trawling for them when the time comes. In fact, with this in mind, we designed one of the inside pockets in every Aristocracy London jacket to be just the right size for business cards. When you’re ready, hand out your card face up and facing the recipient. Either use your right hand or both hands and only touch the top corners so as not to cover the details.

5. Receive with grace
When a card is presented to you, accept it in the manner it was presented, e.g. if it is offered to you with both hands, take it with both hands. Spend a few seconds reading it and try to come up with a polite comment, either about the card or the company the person represents.

6. When in Rome
If you are conducting international business, it is important to know that in some countries, such as Japan and China, the exchange of business cards is somewhat ritualistic and clearly more formal. Research local etiquette and observe what others do.

7. In bulk
Never, and we mean NEVER, give more than one business card to a person or ask them to pass your business card on. This would indicate that the recipient is not the acquaintance you were hoping for and you just see them as a stepping stone to someone else.

8. Follow up
In a networking event, you will meet a large number of new contacts. It can be difficult to remember what was discussed but that is no excuse for scribbling away on people’s business cards, especially in their presence. You can make a note when they are out of sight, if you must, but devise a way to record who is who, e.g. in a database, when you’re back home.

Never forget that exchanging business cards is not an end in itself. Ultimately your aim is to build a professional network where your skills are acknowledged and respected so follow up with all the interesting people you meet, either on LinkedIn or through an email. In fact, you may want to first read our email etiquette blog to start on the right foot. And, if you’re looking for the perfect suit for a conference or professional event, check out our collection of limited edition business suits.