Every day I am reminded in one way or another how much the little things count–even how someone handles a business card. This may seem a bit esoteric, but bear with me. It’s the kind of thing that people rarely notice when it’s handled well, but that can really stand out when handled poorly.
When I introduce myself to someone professionally, I usually hand him a business card. Until recently, I didn’t realize that I have a specific way of handing my card to someone. I turn it around so the other person can read it, and I hold it so that my fingers are not covering any of the information. In a broad sense, I am presenting a piece of myself to this person, and my careful handling indicates mutual respect.
It makes sense, then, that what someone does with a business card after he receives it is equally important. I expect the person who takes my card to at least read it (i.e. give it its due) before he puts it away. Where he puts it has meaning, too. Sliding the card into a wallet, briefcase, folder, or even a breast pocket is infinitely better than shoving the card into a pants pocket–especially the back one–only to be rediscovered at dry cleaning time. Even if my card is thrown away later, disregarding my portable credentials right in front of me leaves me feeling kicked to the curb.
Think of it like this. If your third-cousin-whom-you-barely-know gives you (and everyone else) a school picture of her kid at a family reunion, you wouldn’t cram it into your pocket or leave it lying on the picnic table, no matter what you intended to do with it later. You’d look at it, make polite noises, and carefully put it away. You might stuff it in a desk drawer or even throw it away when you get home, but never in front of your third-cousin-whom-you-barely-know. It just wouldn’t be polite. Isn’t a business card the same thing?
Bonus tip for handling business cards at meetings: When I receive multiple business cards at the start of a meeting, I lay them out in front of me at the table. Besides being a respectful way to handle the cards, it helps me keep newly-introduced people’s names straight.