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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reflections: The question of a business card

I was at an expo recently and while there, one or two people asked me for my business card. We all know it, it’s that small rectangular piece of pasteboard paper that has one’s name printed on it, as well as his professional occupation, the position he holds at a company, and the company’s address.

I don’t have a business card, and so what I politely told these people was, ‘No, I don’t have a business card.’ What I didn’t add, although it was going through my mind, was, ‘If you’re really planning on calling, why don’t you save my name and number on your phone.’

Business cards are not new. In fact, they were very popular in the 19th Century. Back then, they were known as calling cards, and social etiquette demanded that when calling upon someone, a gentleman gave his card to the servant answering the door.

This servant would be holding a sliver tray as a matter of course, and it is on this tray that the card would be placed and then taken to the master or lady of the house. All this time, the gentleman caller would stand outside the front door to await further instruction as to whether he was to be received or not.

This procedure, however, depended on there being servants holding silver trays, and as you can therefore imagine, the practice was confined to the social classes that could afford silver trays, and inscrutable uniformed servants. Even so, the calling card itself was a simple affair, for on it was the card holder’s name and his address.

Time saw the calling card morph into the business card, but the original idea basically remained the same: name, address, telephone number; enough information to enable the receiver of the card to pay a business call.

That was then.

Today, the business card has become flashy. It is littered with vague job titles. The company logo manages to fit in there somewhere, and so too do the 1,001 ways possible to contact the card holder. In other words, business cards today are meant only to impress. I, however, think they are a waste of paper and perfectly good trees. No one is going to call you using a business card. What happens instead is the cards get lost, or they are turned into notepads to write more important contacts (not yours) at the back.

And as for business cards making a strong, positive impression… Let me put it this way; the only way a business card can be impressive, is if that card is a plain white card with only your name on it; no contacts, no company logos, no anything else.

Allow me to illustrate. You’re at a cocktail party, you strike up a conversation with an exceptionally well-dressed man who’s staggeringly well-spoken and knowledgeable. Then, after 10 minutes of conversation, you ask for his card, for he has to leave to attend to an urgent matter. He gives you his card, a plain white business card, small print. The name on the card is The Almighty.

Now that’s impressive, and so unless you’re Him, your card will not impress.

I don’t need a business card in this day and age, so don’t ask. Save my name and number on your mobile digital device instead. That way I’ll expect your call.

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