Business Card Rules

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series: Mind Your Manners with Nathalie Findlay
© Ashim Adhikari

© Ashim Adhikari

In a few years, this post might be obsolete.  Some might argue that it already is.  But for the moment, this is the most important thing you need to know in the entire world.  I want to talk to you about your cards.  Business or personal … cards.  You know the ones you got in a hurry or for free?  Yes, well, they are awful.  If you have a moment, do read up on the history of the calling card, which, personally, I find very interesting. But, because you are in a rush, I cut to the chase.

Cards are essentially the print-out you leave from a first impression, so it’s important that they are beautifully designed and practical.

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Here are a few considerations when choosing business cards:
A special note will be made when referring to personal vs. business cards.  Yes, I am taking for granted you are ordering a set of each, as one ought:

  1. Size: Stick to the standard or slightly below: often people will keep cards in special wallets (formerly Rolodexes) or scanners so they need to comply with the norm.  Correspondence cards for couples will be larger, but unlikely to be put in a file anyway.
  2. Colour: Legibility is of the utmost importance; not only by the human eye, but they need to be read electronically now.  No moiré navy blue background with silver foil printing, thank you very much.
  3. Font: Put the card through the Granny test: if it’s too small or ornate for her to read, then axe it.  Stick to classical fonts, too, unless you want to update the design regularly. (Never ever use Comic Sans.  Ever.)
  4. Language: If you do business in a foreign language, then consider putting a translation on the other side of the card.  Be sure to have it checked by at least 17 native speakers before going to print.
  5. Paper: While you might be sold on something glossy, consider a thick cotton card stock which is great to the touch and will stand out.  Granted, it’s a little bit more expensive, so you might want to  be a little more choosey to whom you distribute them to.
  6. Printing: You just KNOW I’m an advocate of engraving, so if you can, do.  Once you have had the die cut then the price gets more and more reasonable.  Just don’t ever change your name, logo or move, and you’re set for life.  If budget is too tight, then consider letterpress or blind embossing which will brighten anyone’s day just enough.

Whatever shall I inscribe upon them, you ask?  Well, keep it simple.  As in conversation, you shouldn’t divulge everything there is to know about you in one fell swoop.  The most elegant card I was ever given was one which only had a name engraved upon it.  Any other pertinent information that was to be shared was then written out with the owner’s beautiful penmanship.  Shows a great deal of class, discretion and the personal touch that suggests ‘this is privileged information but you are special enough for me to share it with you.  You may drive my 1956 Aston Martin, too.’  I was totally sold.

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Of course you’re not going to do that at the next conference you plan to attend, so just be sensible.  We’re now accessible so many different ways, I am of the opinion that it’s better to streamline it all.  Short of just writing ‘Google me’ under your name (resist doing that), if you think you can get away with just putting a mobile number or an email address, go for it, with my blessing.  If your physical address is an essential part of your activity and you must communicate it, then of course, do.  Steer clear of TMI though, by adding Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts and photos of your seven grandchildren.

  • Graphics: Coat of arms, yes, but can be cooler not to.
  • Business Logo: Yes, if it’s a business card.
  • Little butterfly, kitten, or picture of yourself: no, no and no.

When writing a note on a couple card, such as congratulations or a short thanks, remember to cross out the names (so that they are still legible-one diagonal through them will do it).  If you don’t, then you really ought to be writing in the third person, as in the case of an RSVP.

When handing cards out, please be certain to maintain eye contact when in the western world-or inversely, check the local customs when travelling (some will prefer a different ceremonial altogether).

When being presented with a card, take a moment to admire it or at the very least read it and commit the name to memory.  Don’t ever just throw it in your back pocket and walk off, or worse, clean under your nails with it.  (you think I’m making this up??)

I hope this will help you make an informed decision.  Cards are important things to deal with. (I’ll give you a moment to think about that, I hate to waste a good joke at the expense of subtlety)

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Nathalie Findlay

After completing a degree in Fine Arts and another in Interior Architecture, Nathalie began modelling in New York, Hamburg, Munich and Paris where she eventually decided to base herself. Always on the lookout for opportunities to grow, she combined her modelling career with other areas of interest, working for the Canadian Embassy, Christian Liaigre, A Small World and Sotheby’s. She has also enjoyed appearing regularly as a presenter and speaker for television and media events and as a pit-lane reporter on Eurosport.

Exposed both personally and professionally to the intricacies of etiquette and protocol, Nathalie now focuses on applying her extensive knowledge-base practically, addressing matters of refinement, image and manners for individual and corporate clients with Lifestyling, a consultancy she created in 2007.

Nathalie lives in the French countryside with her husband, their baby and two Korthals.

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