Quick, think…how many digital devices do you have that you can use to communicate with others? Three? Four? More? The fact is that doing business in our electronic age requires digital communications. But where does that leave one of the staples of business conversation, the business card? That small printed piece of thick card stock that business owners, employees, and sales people use in the moments after meeting someone. The business card is almost an extension of the handshake and the exchange of cards is a business tradition dating back centuries.

Right around the 17th century, the earliest incarnation of the business card was born. Then the cards, known as “visiting cards” or “visit biletes”, were popular in Europe where representatives of aristocracy and royalty would use the cards to announce the upcoming arrival of a distinguished guest. The cards of that time were slightly larger than the business cards we know today. They were about the size of a modern-day playing card and had space for writing notes or short messages. Some were simple in their format and others were festooned with decorations and ornate engravings.

Through history, the visiting cards became more widely used by all levels of society. By the 19th century, the cards would be exchanged when one family would visit another’s home. This exchange of cards served as a method for cataloging one’s social obligations. It’s fascinating to think about how a small piece of printed card can carry so much value.

Of course, nowadays, the business card is part of a business-person’s arsenal. Kept safely in a wallet or card carrier and ready to be handed out at a moment’s notice, these portable reminders of an introduction maintain a high level of value. Your business card says a lot about you, your company and your position with the company. Not unlike the “visit biletes” of long ago, the business card is part of the first impression someone makes when they meet you. it’s probably a good idea to make sure it sends the right message.

Here are our tips to making a great first impression with your business card:

1. Use a thick card stock for the business card. Flimsy cards are like a “wet fish handshake”, they appear cheap…and so will you. Thick card stock feels substantial and well thought out. That’s the impression you want to make.

2. Consider font size carefully. Printing too small will make the card hard to read. Instead, pick a font size that is legible for just about anyone’s eyesight.

3. Convey important information. It’s easy to try to cram a brochure’s quantity of information on a business card in an attempt to use the card as a selling tool. Resist that urge. People want to be able to communicate with you, give them that chance by keeping the information on your card simple. Your name, phone number, email address and company information. That should suffice nicely. If you need more printed information, consider a brochure.

The business card is far from dead. We suspect that, because of its history and permanence in modern business culture, it will be around for quite some time. That should become quite clear each time you hear the question “Do you have a card?”