Actually palming that business card to someone can be nerve wracking. How do you look smooth? How do you make it not pushy? How do you remember to hand them out?
You put a lot of thought into that business card, and exchanging cards remains an important cultural practice. Many people consider business cards to be an essential sign of being a professional. Follow these tips to get those cards out of your desk drawer and into the hands of your (new) network.
Say, “Let’s talk about this more sometime,” and hand them your business card. Or say, “Remind me to send you that material on [whatever]” or “put you in touch with [person].”
It’s even okay to simply ask if they’d like to exchange cards, says Jane Langille, a health and medical writer based in the Toronto area, Canada.
Jot a reminder on the back of your business card for this person, such as “ask for info on [topic].”
Etiquette varies between cultures, but it’s generally good practice to hand the card over face-up so they can read it. “If you are not sure [of the etiquette],” Langille says, “take your cue from how they present their card to you.”
Remain calm and confident (we have tips here). They are lucky to have met you.
Start with a Story
Before handing out business cards, make connections with people; don’t treat them like you’re handing out food samples at the grocery store. Find out their story, and share a related story of your own if it feels natural. A great story for networking purposes relays a time when you solved a problem that your new contact might face.
Being a good listener can have an even bigger impact when making connections. “Ask why they love what they do,” Langille advises. You might say “That sounds like interesting work. Are there common (or new) challenges in doing that?” and follow up with “That does sound challenging. What can you do about it?” Keep the focus on them and their insights. You can share your own insights briefly, but avoid becoming “the explainer.” The point is to have the other person talk.
You might follow up the card exchange with a story too: creative people make creative cards, and there’s probably a story behind yours (or theirs).
Have Cards Handy
Slip two or three of your business cards in your conference name badge so they are handy. Put a pen in your pocket so you can jot a reminder on the back of your card when you hand it to this new contact.
After making the effort to have business cards and hand them out, you’ve got to follow up on those new contacts. Look at the notes on the cards you collected: Send those people a message within a few days. Email them the links you promised. Connect with them on social media. Make just one more effort to reinforce your connection.