Is the business card dead?

What an embarrassment! There I was, at a council meeting of Birmingham Chamber introducing myself to a guest speaker, suddenly realising that – having put on a freshly dry cleaned suit – I had omitted to put any business cards in my top pocket (which is where I normally keep them).

It was even more embarrassing because the individual I was approaching was from China – and the Chinese take business card etiquette very seriously indeed.

The gentleman was gracious in the extreme, handing his own pristine card over to me with two hands according to Chinese business card etiquette. I did at least have the nous to study it carefully before placing it in my pocket (which I think is culturally correct).

The Chinese, it has to be said, are very keen on business cards and up until a few years ago, I thought that most Westerners were also. And yet I read that they are on the decline – another casualty of our LinkedIn/Facebook/Email/Google Plus culture that seems to be demolishing everything I used to hold dear.

But actually, I am going to predict something of a counter-revolution. Business cards are, I believe, an extension of your brand. They can say a great deal about your business, what you do and who you represent. They can include all the information that you need to enable people to link in to you with ease – as well as being a mini sales brochure at a time when sales brochures seem to have died out also.

They can also provide something of an ice breaker.

A few years ago, our business cards had different quotations about communications on the reverse side – there were about eight in all printed at random and I used to select the card with the quotation I thought most appropriate to the individual that I was presenting it to – or the situation. Not once do I believe I offended anyone with my choice although I might have frustrated them as I shuffled through to find the most appropriate.

Then there are the business cards printed on unusual materials: metal, plastic, vinyl and even, believe it or not, concrete.

I was even more amused once, to receive a card that incorporated two finger holes in it together with a suitable graphic – for a fitness instructor (you’d have to see it to understand it fully).

So business cards still have a role to play – provided that is you remember to take them with you.

PS There was however, one occasion when I was less amused to receive a business card.

I had been chairing a breakfast meeting that, even though I say it myself, I thought had gone extraordinarily well. There was good engagement with the audience, a few laughs and the guest speaker was excellent. I’d even closed the meeting on schedule.

I was just starting to relax after my early morning ordeal when a lady, who will be nameless, marched up to me and presented me with her business card. “I thought you might like this,” she said. “I’d be happy to help.”

The card presented her profession: personal speech coach.

Utterly deflated, I took a great deal of pleasure by later throwing it in the bin.

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