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Imagine handing your card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with, “Thanks, but I don’t need your card.”

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Imagine handing your card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with, "Thanks, but I don't need your card." Well, that's exactly what happened to Juan, who wrote to me recently. Juan found this pretty insulting, and he asked me how I thought someone should respond in this situation.

First, let me talk about giving and getting business cards.

  • As a rule, I believe it’s generally not a good idea to just give people your card until you have a good conversation and make a good connection with them. Unsolicited cards are rarely kept by the individual given the card. Focus more on really connecting with people rather than on “spraying and praying” with your business cards.
  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection. How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be. So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you. It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them. I recently read a blog where many people said they didn’t bring cards so that they wouldn’t get spammed by people they meet. Really? Have they never heard of a spam filter? I use it regularly with unwanted spam. Besides, that argument is like saying I don’t want to advertise because someone might read the ad and cold call me? What kind of logic is that? Buck-up, buttercup. Bring cards. It is a “networking” event!

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The ideal scenario is to have a meaningful (even if brief) conversation with someone where they ask for your business card. However, that doesn't always happen. When it doesn't, it is OK to offer your business card to someone. It's just not terribly effective without a decent connection with that person.

Refusing to take someone's offered card is just plain bad form and it's probably too late to send them back to Mom for retraining on how to play with the other kids in the sandbox. So what do you do if this happens to you? Pick the correct choice below:

A) Squash a cupcake on their nose and say, "Take that, you dandelion."

B) Say, "Really, you [bad word, bad word] dirty [bad word], I hope I never see you again at one of these events."

C) Let's go outside and finish this (like someone I actually know did at a networking event!)

D) Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

The correct answer is "D." (However, for the record, I kind of like "A" a lot.)

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