Opinion | Do you still use a visiting card?
Most visiting cards, live out the rest of their lives in a forgotten corner of an office drawer or a biscuit tin that has seen better days
Business cards, like that third drink on a weekday night, and “Sincerely" at the end of emails, are best left to a certain kind of person.
I used to be like you. I couldn’t imagine a corporate existence without my visiting card. I had all manner of card holders to support their existence: metal, leather, bamboo, even one in fuchsia felt. Just a year and a half ago, I was grumbling to my boss about Mint’s egalitarian philosophy to have no designations on our cards (we have never had them). It was okay when I was a features writer but now that I was an editor, the wisdom of George Orwell’s pigs made tremendous sense.
Who needs visiting cards? he said.
The thing is, there had been mounting pressure from my grandmother, who demanded the new cards marking my career progression for the collection she maintains of all my visiting cards and passport photos. But I realized that apart from her and a few faithful stalkers, no one else in possession of my business card possibly gazes upon them with any warmth or concern. And I’m certain that for post-millennials, the idea of a physical visiting card might appear as weird as pagers and fax machines appear to us. All meetings now, planned or coincidental, end with an “I’ll find you", indicating a later connect on social media. Or a third party offers to “loop in" everyone right after. Either that, or you save each other’s phone numbers, if not email addresses as well, right there and then.
The visiting cards that are useful, we save the information and toss out. I can admit to tossing a few immediately, as can you I imagine. I’ve taken photos of a few and wished for an app that would extract information from the photo and save it in my phonebook—apparently, these exist. But most cards, and you know this is true, live out the rest of their lives in a forgotten corner of an office drawer or a biscuit tin that has seen better days. I know people who collect different kinds of cards for the express purpose of making smoking filters. And if you still naively believe someone somewhere has your visiting card in a file with clear pockets, look up the number of Pinterest boards on how to reuse visiting cards for art and crafts projects. The options are mind-boggling: confetti, streamers, sturdy mobile phone holders!
There is no denying the quaint charm of handing out a card. Or the old school ceremony around it. I assume this is something taught in a class called Business Etiquette 101—which I’ve never taken—but you know those people who make a grand show of turning around a card to face the receiver and hand it over with both hands? Early in my career, I recall a meeting involving more than 10 people where an elegant hotel heiress arranged all the business cards in front of her in the order in which people were sitting around the table. How proper, I registered (I haven’t had the chance to copy this move so far).
I agree there are certain groups or professions for whom business cards make clear sense. Someone who is not online very often; public relations professionals; start-ups actively pitching their businesses to investors or the media. Graphic designers, photographers or interior decorators may also use that piece of real estate to make an impression about their design aesthetic: one of my favourites is by The Credit Counselling Society in Vancouver. The cards are designed as cut-up credit cards, reflecting the company’s purpose.
But if none of the above apply to you, it’s time to look up some Pinterest boards. Or hand over the colourful ones to me, and I will make confetti.
She tweets at @aninditaghose