This weekend, I caught up with a good friend over brunch who is a fun, outgoing, 30 something, MBA, hot shot project manager. During our fast-paced, multi-varied conversations, we touched upon networking events where he flatly stated, “I don’t believe in business cards. They are out-dated. Do people really carry a card anymore?!”

And, I thought…what a great blog post.

The Business Card

It wasn’t until my time working for a pharmaceutical company where I came to appreciate what it meant to work with a global workforce. The company had facilities in Denmark and Hungary, with a sales office in Japan and business sales consultants in South Korea, England, and the USA. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues from around the globe and in return, I expanded my knowledge and became more culturally sensitive to our business and communication differences.

For example, in Japan, they honour the business card. They will hand you their business card with both hands as they expect you to spend a few seconds to look at their business card and make a comment about either their position, the company or city. This practice shows a form a respect.

Mobile App To Replace The Business Card?

Technology disruptors will tell you that it’s time to rid of the business card.  After all, if you’ve ever been to a networking event in North America, the only thing we do when being handed a business card is to say thanks and quickly slide the card into our side coat pocket, and we’re off to get a better contact.

Today, you can use your iPhone to quickly “work the room” linking with dozens of people, adding their contact details on LinkedIn. But in the end, technology has only improved the need for speed but not the art of networking.

Keeping Data As Competitive Knowledge

Call me old-fashioned, but having competitive data that LinkedIn, Google Docs or your iPhone doesn’t have can be an advantage. An article from the Financial Review highlighted that data mined from LinkedIn helps companies such as Microsoft to gain knowledge of its network of executives. LinkedIn also sells its hoard of data to advertisers and licensed to marketers so that salespeople can pitch to potential buyers. This free data provided by us has helped LinkedIn gained $US1.9 billion of its $3 billion revenues last year from “talent solutions”, or what is commonly known as headhunting.

In other words, don’t put everything online and don’t bundle!

The Return Of True Engagement.

Today, I follow the Japanese style of handing out business cards, and I will tell you first hand that it makes for an excellent conversation starter and a real connection with the person in front of me.

Its practice helps you to pause, delay the hurriedness that is typically associated with networking events and creates the opportunity to ask questions that are outside of the norm. What I like about this practice is that it slows down time and helps you and me to spend a few moments on actually getting acquainted. And, isn’t that the point?

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of times where people don’t get what I’m doing with their business card.  I see their eyes wide-opened and blank face staring at me. But I quickly ease any weirdness they may have about me with pointed questions about them and all that is because of the business card.

The result? They are pretty happy and engaged folks!

With the holidays fast approaching you’ll soon be busy with events and parties. Give yourself a chance to slow down, look at the card, smile and ask one question based on the content in that card.

Let me know how it works out!


About the Author Cecilia

I am a marketing communications specialist, strategist, problem solver and founder of The Marketing Boutique. Services also include competitive analysis, public relations, content marketing to help companies reach their business goals.