What does your business card look like?

If you handed it to me, would it tell me something about who you are and what you do? And would it be appealing enough to make me care?

An awful lot of people should be answering “No” to those questions.

I came home from a recent event with 30-some cards—people who are eager to hear from me again. And of course I’m more than happy to stay in touch!

But looking at that many business cards, one right after another, I was struck by what a poor job most of those cards do. I actually wrote to one woman to tell her how much I liked her card…and why.

A picture of her smiling face gets attention.

Now, the first time I put a picture on my business cards I felt weird; it seemed undignified or something. Only aggressively self-promoting real estate agents did that, right? The more I thought about it, the more I decided those real estate agents were onto something.

If you do much networking, you meet a boatload of new people. For many of us, names are hard to remember. But faces? They stay with you.

So having my face on my card makes sense. (I will admit, though, my actual face is now several years older than the one on my card—it’s definitely time for an update.)

Her name is in a nice, big font.

It’s simple, it’s easy to read, it doesn’t have a bunch of loops and curlicues. So her name stands out. This will be useful for anyone who wants to reconnect with “that business strategy expert I met last week.”

There’s plenty of contrast between the background and the print.

So many people have business cards that are hard to read – pale gray type on a cream-colored background. There was one with light aqua letters on a bluish-gray. Or (my least favorite) a light gray card with the words printed in a slightly darker gray.

Yes, it’s true, many graphic designers seem to like that subtle, understated look. I imagine it’s supposed to be classy or elegant or sophisticated.

I’d never claim to be a design expert. What I am is a busy, sociable woman who meets a lot of people. And I know that cards without contrast take extra effort to read. The truth is, many people won’t make that effort.

If it’s worth giving someone your card, hand them something that makes it easy on them. And on that subject …

Tiny type is right up there with gray-on-gray when it comes to Biz Card Don’ts

Maybe people who put those little bitty letters on their business card think they’re only going to be handing cards to 26-year-olds.

Assuming that we meet, sell to, or get hired by senior executives, it’s smart to give them a card they can read without straining or reaching for their glasses. And without reminding them their eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

More seriously, it occurred to me as I looked at this recent batch of cards that some of the people who gave them to me are seriously committed to hiding. Their please-don’t-notice-me cards are just one of the ways they’re flying under the radar.

Think of your card as a marketing piece.

Whether you’re out to meet customers or referral partners or your next boss, you actually do need to be noticed. Keeping a low profile won’t serve you well.

Your card should stand out so you can stand out. And there are a lot of ways to make that happen.

I walk my business card talk.

My card is two-sided. Deep purple on one side, with pale, creamy-yellow letters…the colors are reversed on the opposite side.  The font is crisp and clear—and plenty big.

I chose fairly heavy card stock, so it feels different from others’ cards. And the corners are rounded; that’s another way it might stand out if you had a stack of business cards in your hand.

And you?

You might prefer a subtler look. I notice a lot of corporate cards are much more understated; depending on your business, emulating that look might make the most sense for you.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out to have your business card make a splash. Post a comment below about how your card stands out.