What Makes a Great Business Card?

At the 2018 AIChE Annual Student Conference, I wouldn’t be surprised if I met 100 people. I don’t remember everyone. But there was one interaction that stood out to me. Given that I still remember our conversation after eight months, it’s safe to say that it was memorable.

After a brief introduction and conversation about conference events, Elton Luong passed me his business card. What makes this business card great? How did it make our interaction memorable?

Elements of a business card: conversation builders and useful for future interactions

There are two kinds of information on this card. One is the information that builds and directs conversation. The other is the information that’s useful for future interactions. Looking at the card, can you identify which is which? Which elements make it go from a good business card to a great business card?

1. Name and graduating year

From the first line, I immediately learn two pieces of information.

Since it’s the most important detail, the name is highlighted through a big and bold font. In addition to being an effective use of space, complementing the name with the graduating year let me know that Elton is a senior. This is enough to start a conversation.

2. Professional details

The next line gives me details on Elton’s educational background.

While everyone I met at the conference had a chemical engineering background, the concentration on sustainability and minor in business administration stood out.

This can be conversation building or useful for future interactions. In our case, it was both. It was conversation building, because it stood out enough for me to ask more about it. It was useful for future interactions, because it served as an anchor to remind me of the conversation we had at the conference, helping me with future interactions.

3. Contact information

The three pieces of contact information are email, phone number, and address.

This is useful for future interaction, because it provides possible communication channels. Although it’s unlikely that I will need the address, I might contact Elton if I’m ever in Charlotte, NC.

4. Institutional information

The header included university and department. Like professional details, this can be conversation building or useful for future interactions based on context. In our case, it was both. I met a few people from NC State at the conference. In our future interaction, it helped me remember Elton as one of the NC State students.

Leap from good to great

Up to this point, the business card is good. It’s neat, organized, and concise. There’s information to have a conversation and follow up later. The next two elements take the card from good to great.

5. QR code

Guess where the QR code takes you. LinkedIn! After our conversation, you can guess where our next interaction occurred.

When I get a business card, I connect with the person on LinkedIn and forget the business card ever existed. In fact, I was so certain I would lose the business card that I took a picture of it. Even if you do hold on to business cards, you still need to store and search through them. The more you have, the longer this takes. LinkedIn simplifies this and makes contacting someone easy.

Suppose I don’t remember Elton’s name, but I remember that he went to NC State. I can search NC State and scroll until I find a picture of Elton. Since we’re a first-degree connection, he would show up at the top of the list, along with the other NC State students I met at the conference.

LinkedIn is the most practical channel for a future interaction. In addition to having the information already discussed (i.e., name, graduating year, professional details, contact information, institutional information), it has other background information that wouldn’t make sense to put on a business card. For example, Elton did co-ops at Albemarle. Although that isn’t something that would go on a business card, the position and nature of his work are readily available through his LinkedIn profile.

6. Conversation topics

An interesting and meaningful conversation makes a memorable first impression. The momentum of this will carry you through future interactions. For this reason, it’s important for the first conversation you have with someone to be strong.

“Ask me about AIChE, Musical Empowerment, and home cooking”

With three prompts ready to go, Elton is equipped to have a strong conversation. Our conversation went from typical conference introductions (what’s your name, what school do you go to) to deeper topics. We talked about AIChE, going back and forth between Texas Tech AIChE Student Chapter and NC State AIChE Student Chapter. There was a strong focus on the Sister Chapter Program, because our sister chapter, Centro Universitário SENAI CIMATEC AIChE Student Chapter, was in the room along with two other international chapters, Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Bogotá AIChE Student Chapter and Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín AIChE Student Chapter.

Musical Empowerment is a non-profit that Elton’s involved in. It links college students to children for free one-on-one music lessons. What starts as music lessons evolves into a mentorship between the two. Since this is a unique program, it made my conversation engaging and stood out to me.

Although we didn’t get to talk about home cooking, there was enough content between the other two topics to have rich conversation.

Even though I would be the one asking about AIChE, Musical Empowerment, or home cooking, it’s Elton who's in control of the conversation. It’s likely he’s had many conversations about them and knows how to direct the conversation in an engaging and memorable way with anyone from his peers to potential future employers. More so, since these are things he’s passionate about, the enthusiasm naturally presents itself in the conversation.


You don’t need subtle off-white coloring, a tasteful thickness, nor a watermark to have a great business card. Good business cards build conversation and facilitate future interactions. Great ones pave the way for even richer conversations and interactions. While conventional elements such as name, professional details, and contact information are universally included, you can think outside the box to add others. A QR code to your LinkedIn profile and conversation topics, for example, can make yours leap from a good business card to a great one!  


Moosa Al Lawati's picture

Business cards are always a great tool to connect especially if executed and used properly. I really wonder how a fresh grad should construct his business card? any ideas?

John Deibler's picture

Very interesting post! I agree with Moosa that business cards are a great tool to connect! One idea some people like is putting your face on it - kind of like a real estate agent!