Should Business Cards go the way of the Dodo?

A major article in the LA Times quotes “young and savy” business people as “hating” business cards and noting they are not as popular as they have been in the past.  Read all about it here.

What with smart phones, iPads, tablets, and the rest, and with communications being so easy with text and email, why do we need the little cards at all? Typically, after you copy the data into your address book which is synced with your Blackberry or Iphone, what happens to the bits of pasteboard. On my desk they are stacked not so neatly ‘just in case.’

If I have been in any contact with the person that I met at a business meeting I most likely already have all their contact information. So why a business card?

In some business cultures (Asian) for instance, they are a requirement for meetings. The business card ceremony is quickly learned. Often cards are held, playing card like, in the order people are standing or sitting so one knows who is who. In Europe, the cards carry a person’s educational history, with a bevy of letters after the name.

Business cards can get you past that awkward moment when first meeting someone. They help people like me who have a ‘visual’ memory — I’m more likely to remember a name if I see it rather than hear it. The passing and reading of business cards give you a bit more information about a person — where they are from, their title, maybe even their academic prowess. A person may not introduce themselves as “Doctor” so in so, but that “PhD” on the card can carry some meaning. And if they don’t add ‘doctor’ to their name when introducing, that fact alone can tell much about a person’s character.

Personally I think its rude to hack away at your smart phone when you meet someone to get pertinent information. Writing a short aide-memoir on the back of a card is more elegant. Plus reviewing the cards you find in your pocket at the end of a day can give added gravitas to an important meeting.

The article talks about an ‘app’ where smart phone users can simply ‘tap’ their phones together and transfer contact information. Of course that presupposes that everyone in the group has the app. I can see it now, year 2050, business folk meeting and go through a tap your smart phone ceremony. Wow.

The story notes that some young bucks “hate” business cards. What’s that all about? How can you “hate” something so unassuming. If you ‘hate’ a business card, what emotion have you saved up for murderers or purveyors of kiddie porn.

There is one other benefit to business cards.  You can write your personal phone number on the back in the presence of the person who is to receive the card. That act elevates them (and you). You trust them enough to give them your personal number. What do you do if you don’t have the card — I know, call them and your number will show up on their phone, but frankly I don’t see that use of technology as being the same as taking out your Mount Blanc and penning a few numbers.  Its not the same as saying “here, let me give you my direct line.” And then doing it.

I know I’m a Luddite when it comes to some of these things, but we just reordered our business cards and will be passing them out next week at PIE.  The poor recipients will be required to scan them into their smart phones.

Andy tells me that each badge at the event will have a QR code on it and folks can scan the code and all contact information will become available to them. So I’m supposed to click my phone at some woman’s chest to get her personal information. Maybe that’s a tad too personal. I’ll take a business card anytime. No minefield to negotiate with that little piece of paper.



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