An integral part of business is the oft-overlooked business card. While Americans tend to view this practice of exchanging contact information in a casual manner, businesspeople in other countries regard it as a symbol of respect.
Mercedes Alfaro, president of First Impression Management Inc., an executive training and consulting firm, believes we can take a cue from Japanese business by paying more attention to the manner in which we present these cards.
"Present your business cards in the direction where the receiver doesn't have to turn it around to read it," she suggests. "Don't write notes on the business card while the owner is watching - you are defacing their business image."
Meishi, the Japanese word for business cards, are presented almost ceremoniously to others in Japan. Though our culture does not necessarily call for such extravagance, there is still no excuse for ruthlessly hurdling your business card to anyone who comes your way. With that said, it's wise to wait until the end of a conversation to give someone your business card.
"If you want to give your business card to the other person and they have not asked you for it, ask them for their card. If they don't ask you for your business card, they don't want it," says Alfaro. "If you give someone your business card and they have not asked for it, they will most likely throw it away, and you have not made a good impression."
In both Japan and the United States, it's considered disrespectful to pass along a wrinkled, torn or damaged card. So be sure to keep them someplace safe, such as a leather-bound business card holder.
Typically, these cards measure 3.5 inches by 2 inches with black font that's printed on white cardstock. Though the color of the card itself is negotiable, the size should remain the same. Don't let the name fool you - business cards are not just for owners of companies or those in the business world. They are also a great way for job seekers to easily pass along their information to prospective employers. Also, they add a professional touch for students who are applying for internships or mingling with professionals at events.
"Your business card and how you handle it is a very personal part of business communication," Alfaro adds. "It's like a handshake, you make an impression with the way you present it. Therefore, give your business card in such a way to make the other person want to remember you and want to get in touch with you. It is important to know how and when to present your card without seeming too pushy."
Anatomy of a business card
Items should include:
Name (Don't use Ms., Mr. or Mrs. unless you have a name that could be female or male, such as Ms. Sam Johnson)
Direct phone number
Card color (match company's stationery)
Size: Always 3.5 inches x 2 inches
Type: block or Roman