Business Cards and Networking.

Business Cards and Networking.

May 25
Business Cards and Networking.

 No Business Card?

I was recently at a networking event and at least 2 of the people there were unable to give me a business card.  There was a lengthy pause and lots of patting of pockets, looking in walletts, but no business card was produced.  I subsequently made a comment on Twitter about remembering to take business cards to networking meetings.  I was met by some support but equally met with resistance and comments that people have not used business cards for months and months.
To be totally honest I am shocked by this response. 

Do people think of networking in a very different way, or am I odd? (No sniggering at the back!)  One of the people I met at this event, I know 2 or 3 people who could have benefited from his contact details.   I keep all the business cards of people I meet networking, they get filled and they get entered into a database.  I get asked on a regular basis by my network if I know someone who does X or Y.  It is great to be able to say actually yes I met X or Y at a networking event, they might be worth a call or I am sure they will be able to help you.  Wasn’t it Macy’s the famous US departent store that founded a reputation on this style of service?  If they didn’t have what you needed, they would go out and source it for you, or tell you who locally could help you.  They don’t seem to be doing too badly from it (even in these difficult times.)

Take my business card

On the flip side it is great if at networking events people take my business card.  They might have taken it for a variety of reasons (not limited to the following.) 1) To keep and contact me later 2) to pass to a colleague or client either immediately or at some point in the future. 3) to add me to their mailing list. 4) They may have just taken it out of politeness. Regardless of why they have taken it, I am pleased that they now have my contact information.  Indeed if I meet someone at a networking event that I feel could be beneficial to myself and either another member of my network or a client I will take 2 and pass one along.  Isn’t this what being a good networker is all about?

Contact information and image

So now not only do they have my contact information easily available, they don’t have to try and remember my name, my company name, my contact details, my web address or any of the other plethora of information they might need in order to contact me.  My Business card also sends out a clear message about my business, it’s conservative, professional looking as well as being eye catching and feels great to hold.  The compliments I have had on it have been excellent.  It was not always this way!  When I started out I ordered some ‘free’ design it yourself business cards.  There is no comparison between the 2.  The old ones were on shoddy thin cheap card stock, were an odd size and I am sure plenty of designers could tell you lots more that was wrong with them.  What message was this sending out to people that were picking up my business card about my business?  I am just glad I took advice and advantage of a great offer and got my new ones organised when I did.  I often see a similar business card passed round at a networking meeting, and it certainly makes me think.  In fact I hear a lot of  people purposefully use these cards just for networking.  I have to question why? Do they think they are going to get thrown away?  Surely if the quality is poor and the wrong image of the company is portrayed, this is a distinct possibility. 

A business card is a portable memory of you, as well as your business.  People can make notes on them and pop them in their pocket and take them away with them to do as they will.  When they look later it can jog their memory to remind them to take action as they see fit.  If you are unable to pass out a good business card or any type of business card, how do you expect to be remembered or referred?

Thoughts and comments welcomed.

p.s – I have a great printer I can offer you a referral to.  They often have super deals on business cards!


  1. Neil Ryder

    I’m with you – business cards are an essential tool. Yes, we could exchange telephone numbers via our phones; but this only works if I need your services now. I was always told that when you are networking to never treat your fellow networkers as a potential client. Rather to treat them as someone who may know someone who needs your services – without a business card this won’t work. I’ve picked up a lot of referrals this way.

    Maybe I’m an old fuddy duddy, but I’d never go to any meeting – let alone a networking event – without a stack of business cards in my pocket. They are even with me when I go out on my bike or to play golf. You never know – played in a competition on Sunday and my opponent asked me for my card for future reference.

  2. Thanks for the comment Neil. I agree I always have a card with me. I got asked for one in the pub the other night. Be Prepared, I’ve heard that before somewhere….

  3. will

    Agreed. Especially in the drinks industry, where the chances of accurate recall are dramatically reduced!

  4. Hadn’t thought of that , but excellent point!

  5. Business cards are often forgotten at networking events, strange as it may seem. Yet they are such an important tool.

    Imagine I meet you at an event and promise to introduce you to someone. I then ask for your card and make a note on it. That makes it much more likely that I will follow through on my promise. In addition, when you pass me your card I get a visual hook that helps me to remember you when you’re not around.

    However, and for me it’s a big ‘however’, I never advocate exchanging cards with everyone you meet at an event. Nor do I exchange cards at the very beginning of a conversation. For me, the exchange of business cards is the sign of a commitment to continue the conversation/build a relationship after the event. They should only be passed where two people have found something in common or developed a rapport and want to build on that.

    And if you do forget your card? Don’t panic! Ask for the other person’s and MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW UP! After all, I would rather have the other person’s card and be able to follow up than they have mine and wait for the phone to ring!

  6. As it was my response to Emma’s tweet that sparked this off I’d better explain myself.
    I’ve been networking in lots of different circles to the usual round of business breakfast type events and found that most of these have sprung up out of a dislike of the elevator pitch, pass the cards round the table type of thing.
    Most of these groups take a much more social approach to networking and are more likely to look people up on line before the event so that they can have ‘real’ conversations and have no need to ask ‘what do you do?’. They know that before they even talk to you.
    What they’re interested in is finding out what kind of person you are and what they have in common with you. (Cars, books, music, education, families, sports – you know, things that non-business people talk about when they’re getting to know each other.)
    Instead of B2B networking, its P2P.
    This means that, although the business card isn’t, or ever would be, redundant, it is much less relevant in some circles. More and more people are using QR codes on their cards so that people just scan them and link straight to their website and these can provide much more information than would ever fit on a card and can be passed on to others electronically very easily.
    I was at a meeting with 40 + people last night and there wasn’t one pitch, no business cards were passed, no-one asked me what I do but this morning I had 12 new Twitter followers from people that I’d chatted with – about food, photography, jazz etc., etc.
    As our on-line lives are becoming more social, engaging with potential buyers rather than selling, there is growing trend for face to face networking to follow suit.
    This doesn’t mean that all the things that Emma mentions in her use of business cards doesn’t happen – it just happens in the digital world.

  7. Thanks for your response Ann.

  8. Thanks for your comments Andy – appreciated and I agree, do only give a business card of you are asked for it.

  9. I love the idea of P2P rather than B2B networking and totally agree with your outlook Ann, as my blogs and books will testify.

    I must take issue with one area though, and that’s the migration of business information from cards to digital. Many thought that would happen with CD-Rom cards, but they disappeared pretty quickly. And I think there is a simple reason.

    If I scan your details onto my PDA or phone they will sit there with many others. Having met you at an event, I want a physical reminder of the need to follow up and of my promises. If you are hidden among 2,000 contacts on my phone, you’re lost in the system before I’ve had the chance to get to know you.

    Once we’ve followed up and established a relationship I no longer need your card. I only need to remember you, your name, what you do and who for. If I see an opportunity for you I can find your details easily. But that doesn’t happen immediately, you have to make a strong impression first.

    In the meantime I need your card.

    PS – I almost never pass my cards around a table at an event, and if I do so it is reluctantly. That’s direct mail, not networking!

  10. Thanks again Andy.

  11. Ray

    “A business card is a portable memory of you, as well as your business” Well said.
    I just found you on twitter Emma and I am looking forward to more of your tweets and blogs.

  12. Thanks Ray – Plenty in the archive to keep you going 🙂

  13. This is really interesting! My 19 year old son has recently joined me in my businesses and he absolutely baulked at the idea of carrying business cards. His reason? He has Linkedin on his phone, and just entered the name of who he was talking to straight in there, found their profile and connected. He also switched on Bluetooth as he walked into the room and practically everyone who was there showed up. Easy conversation piece “Ah, you’re Jane, Samsung 364? Great, I’ll add you if that’s OK?” Again, jumped onto the Linkedin app and hey presto!

    So are business cards seen as ‘old fashioned’ by the older generation (i.e. me!). Maybe but at 19 he’s representative of a future generation of networkers – should we be taking heed?

  14. Thanks this is really interesting stuff. I still like something tangible and a lot of people I meet are not on Linked In or Twitter. I suppose this may change though.

  15. An interesting example Cat and I can see how a younger generation will see cards as old fashioned. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make when they network is not following up. I can only see the instances of that happening increasing by simply filing people in your database there and then.

  16. I believe that business cards are a must. Ann, I don’t know how all those people at the network evening you mentioned, could recall everyone’s name! For me, just as Emma mentions in her blog, they have your contact details on, otherwise it would be laborious trying to figure out who that person was that cleans drains.

    Come to think of it, only yesterday, a friend called me and asked for someone’s contact details, as he was out and didn’t have the number to hand. I went to my business cards, found the relevant one and gave him the telephone number.

    I think it is still a professional way to carry oneself.

    Regarding the pitches etc, I and many others, don’t simply talk about business, in fact that often comes later or as a little intro at the beginning. It is about getting to know someone ‘people buy from people’ and all that.

    However, if it works, great. It’s worth it, afterall, were would we be today if all the off-the-wall ideas were dismissed.

  17. Thanks for your comments Ian.

  18. Business cards are not essential – but they help. Some people may well find it all easier to get the information virtually, for instance using “Bump” on iPhones to swap “business cards” electronically. Similarly, some people give out little CDs with virtual business cards on them. All very nice and modern.

    But business cards will always be with us – not matter what. Here’s why: some people are tactile. Some people prefer to touch things, to feel them to have a physical presence of something. When you visit a business event you will meet some people who are happy to “go virtual” but you will also meet people who need the physical in order to connect. (NLP people call them kinaesthetic).

    That means you MUST have business cards with you because you do not know if the person you are meeting requires the physical item in order to connect with you. If you do meet kinaesthetic people and you have no physical item, such as a business card, they’ll struggle to remember you.

    Meanwhile, of course, the visual people will remember your face and won’t need your business card.

    Different people – different needs. If you give up on business cards you cannot meet those differing needs.

  19. Thanks Graham – I agree with you. I must be Kinasthetic.

  20. Hello Emma

    12boxes business cards feature our logo, which also serves as a visual aid when people ask what we do. I particularly like it when I am on the point of putting the card away again, and people ask if they can keep it.

    Apart from that, we work with people who embrace every development in technology while others adopt a more traditional approach to business etiquette. One has to have the flexibility to adapt to the preferences of the individuals one meets.

    In Japan, where there are some of the most advanced smartphone applications in the world, business cards are still an essential element of any business encounter.

    Malcolm @malcolm12boxes

  21. Thanks Malcolm – good to know that despite all the technological advancements, business cards are still going strong. It sounds liek they will for a while here too.

  22. Totally agree, at networking meetings this is often your ONLY chance to show your brand and be remembered, and so too it is soo important not to economise on them either, these freebie vista cards are such a poor portyal of you, your product or your service – I remember meeting a guy who had some, my initial reaction was that he was a small scale builder or odd job man, on talking to him he was one of only a small number of highly qualified structural engineers in the country, not the message his cards gave !

    Perception is reality !!!!!

  23. Unsurprisingly I agree with this response.

  24. Well done Emma, you’ve really provoked some debate with this one. I don’t think business cards have had there day. There still a great way to exchange details when meeting initially. As has been mentioned if you keep a card to one side with some notes on it this is very handy until you have established some regular contact.
    As you say a good quality card that stands out is a great memory hook and it doesn’t cost the earth to get one of these produced. Mine have improved greatly over the years and I now quite often judge businesses rightly or wrongly on theirs !

  25. As with all things, there is the full spectrum of behaviours here.

    We all know people who collect piles of cards and do nothing with them except collect dust. At the other end of the spectrum are people like Cat’s son who can find a contact faster than most folk can phone home.

    I don’t think this is an age thing tho’ (I’m definitely at the other end of the scale to Cat’s son) nor is it about kinaesthetics – a smart phone is as tactile as you can get. Its about the way we work.

    Either we are “when I’m back at my desk I’ll look it up and send it to you / enter you on my system” or we’re an on the move “lets it do it now and its done” kind of person.

    Using something like CapsuleCRM gives the visual reminders of a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook avatar, no time is wasted entering data or scanning cards and for folk on the go it has become second nature.

    Of course, as Graham says, we never know which of these types we’re going to meet so the business card will never be redundant but there is a lot more choice in how we deal with the information – and a lot more to come with QR codes, NFC (Near Field Communication) and much, much more.

    As far as branding goes, (and I can feel a whole other debate coming up) with the exception of the internationally famous brands – and even they are catching on to this, logos and business names are becoming less relevant as personal engagement is becoming increasingly important.

    In other words, I don’t care how smart your business card is, if I don’t like you I won’t be doing business with you. On the other hand, if we have a real connection, and I can see your smiling face on my phone every time I scroll, you’re more likely to get a call.

  26. I agree with Ann – I got a bit fed up of handing over a card and then being sent email stuff or being added to a list (which I never subscribed to). I have also been repeatedly called (almost harrassed) by salespeople from “other networks”

    I mean – be honest – what would a telecomplus reseller want with a card???

    So I tried a bit without a card.

    It’s my choice who I talk to, If you have a card and you give it to me – I will choose to ring you or not.

    In short – I opted out from “business card bingo”

    I now carry a card but I am not afraid to say “Sorry I don’t have one” if i don’t like the look of someone.

  27. Jonathan, I agree with you on the issue of automatically being added to a newsletter subscription. I do find this annoying and wouldn’t do this with anyone I ever met through networking, or at all. I believe that it should be up to that person to add themself.

    I guess the Telecomplus comment is tongue-in-cheek, they’d be all over you like a rash!

    I do, however, believe it to be quote blinkered and potentially doing yourself out of work, by having the opinion of ‘It’s my choice who I talk to, if you have a card and you give it to me’. What if I met you whilst networking and you didn’t give me a business card. Then in a month or so I required your service(s), but could recall your name etc. It would raise two questions in my mind:

    1) Why did he not give me a business card? Does he not want to promote or offer his service, does he believe that he is that good, it will sell itself?

    2) Not having this person’s business card, I don’t know who you are, so I will look for someone else that I also know and will contact them as I know of them and have their details. Furthermore, I may well be sceptical about why you didn’t have a business card.

    I have actually been speed-networking and genuinely forgotten my business cards. I felt naked without them, having to hand out my flyers instead.

    There are extremes. I was told by one of the top U.W. guys about a wedding he was to attend, that he wasn’t looking forward to. Asking his wife how many people would be there, she replied “about 200”. Great he thought, that’s 200 potential clients, so took his cards with him!!! Maybe I should try that at my own wedding in 5 weeks. However, although he is as i say, one of their top earners, I think it is rather sad to have to view everything like that (then again, it works for him, so may try it).

    I have to disagree on this score. Business cards are important to have. Not simply to promote yourself, but to also have details of others whose service you could benefit from. Networking/social media is about ‘giving & taking’, ‘asking & answering’ or so I have been told.

  28. Philip

    Emma, This is a fabulous debate, I think business cards are useful, BUT I also believe they are evolving. In my mind I see 3 types. A) traditional business details B) QR codes C) Marketing tools – but not with traditional business details as such.

    In my everyday corporate world the use of business cards is totally sterile and purely functional. They are usually handed out immediately after an introductory “Hello I’m from X” – perhaps because in the corporate world people are representing their organisation first and foremost and not themselves.

    In the networking groups I participate in outside of my regular corporate world it is mostly a different story. It’s more subtle, there are nuances, conversations, discovery of shared interests – all happening before a business card is offered or asked for often at the end of a conversation.

    Its about people and in most of the events I go too we represent ourselves and I can personally testify to how refreshing I’ve found that. As a result I can see some opportunities to evolve how I use “business” cards in the future. They will still be cards but they won’t be about “business”

  29. Emma I agree with you to a certain point. I have business cards where ever I go too and a few magic tricks and I also meet a lot of photographers who dont carry their camera with them which is also a crime. However, there is also a very good reason for not taking cards with you. As i was reminded by my mate Chris Montgomery Photography. If some one asks him for a card he just tells them to enter his name in Google and up pops his web site and the more people who do that means you get higher on google. On from that your mobile phone now allows you to take a picture and add details.

  30. hey!!! great article Emma and glad to say that your cards are our top selling product Star Marque 400gsm Silk Artboard with Matt Laminate and Spot UV highlights – design by little old me! and printed by Our offers each month are awesome and do help businesses save money on their marketing and stationery products. A business card says a lot about you and a lot about your business – uncoated digital, almost free cards suggest that your business is a “hobby” or “temporary” and perhaps that you couldn’t be bothered to invest in your business? Not a great first impression. Give us a call or email us sometime – we can help 01954 710818

  31. Emma

    As usual I am a bit late into this conversation.

    As I run networking events where people do elevator pitches and have the opportunity to pass cards if they want to, I often get asked by members and guests alike ‘do you have the details of the guest at your meeting that did X – I didn’t take his card at the time as I didn’t think I would need his services?’ I take cards of all the guests that attend and do request to connect to them on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc and I also keep the cards. I’m rubbish at faces but will remember a logo to associate with a business.

    Strangely enough I also give out my cards to new clients as this has my mobile number on it to encourage them to call me, as well as people I meet for the first time.

    I also have the same quality cards that Emma refers to. I notice that people will rub them between their fingers when they take them and I often get complimented on the cards.

    In the same way that I now have a Kindle I don’t think I will ever give up reading off paper also.

  32. Business cards are tools not rules. Like so many business aids and strategies. Often one size does not fit all. A quality business card, handed out on request or at the end of a conversation is ideal for most. It does however depend on your networking strategy and personal preference. Some people concentrate on volume and dish out their business cards like Croupiers at the casino. Others are so keen to hand out the card they don’t even make eye contact. This strategy (or lack of it) is often employed by those looking for dozens, even hundreds of clients where anyone will do. Others may only need/want one client every few months and can be more discerning with whom they exchange cards.  I have often been to networking events and not given one card as it was not requested or more often I was well known already. The key is to think about what is best for you and the recipients. Be sincere whether you are handed over embossed or cheap and cheerful cards. Most importantly as Andy said is to follow up.

  33. I’ve written a 4 page report on business cards – some people have them and they don’t do them any favours (think Vistaprint)!

    The business card isn’t just so I remember your name and phone number, it’s useful to jot the event I met you at (I’m getting forgetful these days) and to (hopefully) get some idea of what you do. This means that either your company name or strap line need to give me a clue about this, or you need something on the back of the card that helps me to understand what your deliverables are.

    With a card I can pick it up and see it instantly. With a mini disc I have to insert it into my computer and wait for it to fire up (and my computer doesn’t have a disk drive so I have to borrow someone elses).

    With a card I know where I met you if I jot that on the back. With a SmartPhone link up I may never remember who you are. I don’t go through my thousands of contacts I’ve gathered over the years unless someone contacts me. That’s not meant to be insulting, it’s simply a fact, none of us can remember everyone in detail; I go to at least three networking events a week and meet quite a few new people, then I have to try and remember which one was at which event and who does what.

    I agree with the comments above – I often remember having met someone, but don’t remember their name, but can remember which event, so I look in the right card filing system and get their details out to pass on.

    I think today’s technology is brilliant, but not a substitute for a good business card.

  34. Great blog post Emma.
    I have seen thousands of business cards in my time and I have also seen so many cards that are not worth the card or tacky paper they are printed on. For some they have a logo on the front with just a name and email and telephone details. The logo is simply a nice graphic with no explanation of what the company offers, and in my mind this is worse than useless. If I’ve picked this card up at an event along with lots of other cards will this card with the nice little logo remind me of what they do?
    I recorded a show all about this –

  35. I run three networking groups and also do talks/presentations on “top tips for networking success” and I am shocked when people turn up to events without a business card. Not everyone has a smartphone so can look in LinkedIn immediately (that’s providing you can get a signal), besides there are a lot of people out there not on LinkedIn. In fact I’m “linked” with less than half of my clients precisely because the majority don’t use LI.

    A business card is an instant source of a lot of valuable information, especially at a networking event. If you study it when handed to you, it saves you asking questions like, “so, where are you based?” when their address is clearly printed on the card. It can also keep the discussion going if it’s starting to stall, “I really like the design of your card where did you get it done?”

    There has been at least once where I couldn’t give someone work because when I had met them they didn’t have a card and so had forgotten their details by the time (just a week later) I could have referred someone to them.

    One of my “top 5 tips to networking success” (a free “taster” talk I do, which is a significantly cut down version of my full talk) is “Have your business card with you at ALL times!” However, in addition to that I would say that there’s no point having your card with you if you’re not going to hand it out to people. An example recently was I was standing in a group of three networkers, one was very interested in the other’s business. I said to him (I know them both), “Hey, Jim, she’s interested! Give her your card.” He continued chatting to her and answering her questions (a sure sign of someone being interested in your service is if they keep asking questions), but NEVER produced his card. So when she walked off he had lost a potential sale. This is a man who has been running a business for seven years and is still struggling to get business. I wonder why.

  36. Until last week, I haven’t had a Business card since 2007. I guess it’s because if I have truly engaged with someone and there was clearly grounds for discussions I’d simply whip out my phone add their number, save a tree and having to tap the details into my phone later on.

    I’d also take theirs number and repeat above. I have now been bought business cards and I am wondering why we spent the money on them and how I will ever run out without using them to make motorbike noises when sticking them in the wheel of my bicycle.

    I work for a global app and web firm so forgive me for thinking a piece of card, which will get entered into an electrical device of some sorts then thrown away….. well let’s just say could be approached differently.

  37. My Point relates to the fact that at a recent B2B exhibition people were given electronic tags to tap to connect with people and get their information emailed to you. This has so far taken 2 days….. It’s faster just to swop a card or make ‘real’ notes while chatting. I still like business cards though! Enjoy playing motorbikes with yours 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wordpress SEO Plugin by SEOPressor