Trading Cards

Recently on LinkedIn I asked a question about business cards and etiquette – do you always reciprocate handing out a card? That is, if someone gives you their card, should you give that person one of yours? If you hand someone your card, should you request one in exchange?

Before going any further, one thing needs to be clarified. I was asking the original question for a particular reason, and it was not so that I could write this article. I’m planning on attending a speed networking event next week, in which participants are seated at tables with five other people and get two minutes to make an introduction. The last time I attended, before anyone spoke, I had 5 cards in front of me, one from each person. After the introductions, however, I only really saw value in 2 or 3 of the connections.

The second half of the issue is that I did, at that event, reciprocate the handing out of my card. I ended up on 3 distribution lists as a result, and it took a while to get taken off one of those. All three people who put me on their mailing lists had something in common – they were all mutual fund salesmen. The question I was trying to get answered was whether I could [politely] refuse to give my card to the mutual fund salesmen at the next event.

I got many answers to my question, some of which addressed my concerns, others which seemed to ignore that aspect of the question. However, I did learn a few things about such events, and the ramifications of sharing a card.

  1. Speed networking events are of limited value, because, while they allow you to meet many people in rapid succession, they often do not allow you to establish a solid connection with any one person.
  2. Given then I will be attending this event (although this may be my last such event), sharing my card is considered to be a necessity. That is, I cannot politely decline to share my card with any one person or group of people.
  3. I can control when to share my card – I can wait until it’s my turn to introduce, thus linking my card to my introduction.
  4. I can make mention that I do not wish to be placed on any distribution lists – while I welcome networking opportunities, please keep my e-mail off any type of mailing list you may have.
  5. When receiving cards, make notes on the back regarding the person who gave me the card, and any other information that may be relevant.
  6. You never know where your next successful connection will come from, so don’t try to guess. Instead, hand your care to anyone who will take it, but always include a brief summary of what it is you do, and what it is you’re looking for.

What do you think about sharing your card? What value can you find is such events?