Business Cards – I am Not a Barbarian

By Derek On September 12, 2011 Under Uncategorized


Business Cards – I am Not a Barbarian

Never make forecasts, especially about the future.” Samuel Goldwin

Your business card may seem like a minor detail but it is actually quite important and you must always carry them on your person. The worst thing is to have a meeting with a new client, or clients and run out of business cards. You look like a dork. Clients need to know where you work, your position there and contact details. All this should be obvious.

When In Asia

If you work in Asia, or visit Asia on business, then your business card – and the etiquette associated with it – takes on even greater importance. Asian cultures, whether Japanese, Korean or Chinese are hierarchical and your position, or rank, within the company or society is very important. In most Asian languages there are even different verb forms and words used in everyday speech when talking to a superior, or to an “inferior.” It is much more involved and complicated than, “Yes, sir. No, sir.” This acute consciousness of hierarchy extends to the usage of business cards, as well.

The Two Hand Rule

When in Asia, or when you meet someone from Asia, NEVER hand them a paper, document or business card with one hand. That is disrespectful. Using two hands to give someone your card AND to receive theirs is considered the polite conduct of educated people. Use one hand and you are simply a barbarian.

Usually business cards are exchanged before the handshake and sometimes no handshake is required. When in doubt, shake hands. When you hand a client, or corporate officer, your business card use both hands and extend it to them first. Receive their card with both hands and DON’T jam it into your pocket right away. Study it for a few seconds. You will see them doing the same.

This also holds true for presentations: hand those to clients with both hands. Receive them from clients with both hands.

The Worst Example

The worst business card etiquette I have seen was from an American fund manager who came to Asia on a trip. We entered the meeting room and the company directors of the corporate we were visiting filed in behind us on the other side of the table.

I pulled out a stack of my business cards and prepared to introduce the client when said client threw his card down on the table with a slap and then flicked it across the table! “Sorry, I’m running low on cards and I can only give you one.

Yikes. How many people did he offend in the meeting? Everyone present. How many rules of etiquette did he break? Certainly all known ones and probably a few I haven’t thought of.

During the meeting place their cards in front of you. If I am in a meeting with several people whom I don’t know, I always place their cards in front of me in the same order they are sitting across from me. That way, I know to whom I am talking.

No Nose Picking

Don’t use their business card to pick your teeth or clean your barbarian fingernails. This is not polite. Don’t write on them either. If you want to write on their card, the date you met for example, it is best to do it after the meeting. This is especially true if the card in question is that of a really senior person.

If you will be doing business in China or Japan, it is handy to have your name and contact details translated into Chinese or Japanese on the back of your card. This is standard practice for those of us based out here. If you are doing just one trip then don’t sweat it.

By remembering the above guidelines you will get more out of meetings and more out of clients. You will likely be perceived as an educated and well mannered individual. Ignore these rules of etiquette and the people across the table will be thinking about calling a zookeeper.

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