If you’re like most small business owners, you spend a significant amount of time networking and fostering your business relationships. After all, these relationship are at the heart of a successful business. It’s rarely only about what we sell or offer for services. A HUGE part of networking involves introducing people and/or referring people to each other … and I have to admit, I’ve had more than my share of badly executed introductions lately; of course, due to covid, these fall mostly in the email intro category. The bottom line is, there is an art to creating a well-crafted introduction, but the good news is, it’s something we can ALL learn to do.
So, how do you successfully introduce people these days? Honestly, pretty much the same way we always have. You can still find Miss Manners talking about it, and across the pond, Debrett’s has been educating on the social graces, including how to properly introduce people, since 1769.
An Introduction is NOT …
- Simply shoving two individuals together at an in-person networking event and saying “Deb meet Joan, and Joan meet Deb.” Whether you continue a conversation or walk away, you’ve given Deb and Joan nothing on which they can base a conversation.
- Doing the above and then clicking the “send” button on your email.
- Introducing only one person. By this I mean assuming that one person is universally known and that it’s not necessary to share some details.
How to Create a Well-Crafted Introduction
The advent of email, social media, and remote work situations have created an abundance of casual behavior that doesn’t always serve us well. And by “casual behavior” I’m not implying one must use “stuffy” or overly formal language when introducing people. In fact, language that is natural to you is best, but following a couple age-old guidelines will help ensure that your introduction is helpful and doesn’t leave the recipients scratching their heads and wondering why you’re bothering them. Creating a well-crafted introduction highlights you as an incredibly helpful resource for someone to know … which helps keep you and your business top o’ mind.
The Non-Negotiables of Introductions
Whether you are introducing people at a social gathering, a networking event, or via email, there are a few basics that ought to be non-negotiable. Generally speaking, in your introduction you want to ensure that the people you’re introducing learn:
- Something about each other.
- Something about your relationship with each of them, like how do you know them? This helps determine how much “weight” your introduction will have for the recipients and whether following up is worth their time.
- Why you’re introducing them in the first place. Of course, in a social situation or an in-person event, sometimes the why is simply because you unexpectedly ended up in the same physical space together. But, even so, you can make the introduction worthwhile.
Example: In-Person Social Introduction
Social situations are a great way to practice … and admittedly, it may feel odd at first. Again, most of us have lost the art of introduction or were never taught it. Our instantaneous communication via texting and social makes it hard for us to remember a time when someone didn’t have access to loads of information on someone with a few clicks of a mouse. But, if you’re at a social event or just out and about and someone you know runs into you and your companion but they don’t know each other, there’s an opportunity to pull out your version of a Miss Manners introduction. For example:
“Oh, hi Jack! What a nice surprise to run into you! It’s so great to see you … it’s been awhile, right?! Oh! Do you know, Diana? Diana, Jack and I used to work together at my last job. We worked in the same department and shared a lot of time together working various client projects together. We were both working together when I got offered my current job. He was a life-saver helping with that transition!
Jack, Diana is one of my oldest and dearest friends; we’ve known each other since college. She’s currently living in Boston and does business operations consulting in the healthcare industry.”
The above introduction example provides several facts for either person to find points of commonality and allow for further conversation between all three of you, or if you excuse yourself to buy a round of drinks or talk to the maître d’ or hail the cab, you can avoid leaving your friends in awkward silence. Obviously, you’d use whatever style of conversation is most natural to you, but the basic format is covered. Each person learns something about each other and how you know both of them.
Example: In-Person Business Event
Introductions at a business event are even more critical to get right. Even at a networking event that has a distinct social feel, people are there to connect with other business folks and hopefully ones who provide some value to their own business. We’ve all spent what feels like “wasted time” at networking events and no one wants to contribute to that feeling. A proper introduction can mean the difference between someone following up or immediately dropping a business card in the trash. But you’ll see that the introduction format is the same as a social introduction.
Say you’ve been talking to someone and another person you know approaches the two of you:
“Hi Lynda. Good to see you. This is why I like this event — I always run into people I actually want to see and talk to! Lynda, this is Mary Evans. She’s the owner of a local dog-walking and pet-sitting company called Happy Pets. How long have you been in business, Mary? 3 years?
Mary, this is great timing. My friend here, Lynda Smith, is the owner of an independent insurance agency and I know you’ve been wanting to work with a new insurance agent and company. I think Lynda could be a great resource for you!”
The above introduction offers immediate value to both parties — exactly what business owners love to see happen at a networking event. AND, you come off a bit of a hero by connecting two business owners who could actually benefit from having a relationship.
Examples: Email Introduction
Now, when it comes to introducing people via email, there’s just no excuse for not doing it right — you have the time to think about what to say and provide helpful context. With people’s inboxes FULL, it’s important to make your email introduction short, valuable, and helpful. With email you have the opportunity to link to a person’s website and/or a LinkedIn profile which immediately and easily provides ways to access additional information or context. Here are two examples:
Someone requests you make an introduction:
Diana, I want to introduce you to a friend I met several years ago networking, Amy Ryan. We’ve since worked with each other a couple times, sharing our different skills and knowledge with each other. Amy is a young woman who is currently working in bank management and is also a Simmons alum. She is interested in potentially getting into the political arena and would love to connect with another woman in local politics. She saw some of my social shares of your campaign events and when she realized you, too, are a Simmons alum she asked if I’d introduce her to you, and I’m happy to comply!
Amy, as I mentioned, Diana Cross is a dear and long-term friend (we went to college together!) as well as a business collaborator of mine. She has years of experience in the healthcare arena having worked in both corporate and non-profit organizations. I think she’d be a great information resource when it comes to women in local politics, because as you know, she’s also a local state representative.
The above example provides the background info and the reason for introduction, plus, each name becomes a link to their LinkedIn profiles and one would have the additional political website link.
Introduction You Instigate
“Hello. I want to introduce the two of you because I think there are benefits to you both.
Barbara is a woman who I recently met in a networking event. She’s authored a non-fiction book, a memoir about becoming a care-giver to her husband who had cancer. She’s had a friend — a professor of writing — act as her editor, and now she has a completed manuscript in raw form. Barbara’s looking for some guidance about next steps and how to get the raw manuscript into actual book format and how to go about that. As you know, my services are more focused on the end of the process with marketing and Barbara is more in the middle. I think you could be a great resource for her.
Nancy is a former publisher turned book coach. Her website is Book Coaching That Works. We recently worked together on a project with a mutual author client who was writing a book on leadership.
I will leave you two to continue the conversation.”
Go Forth and Create Well-Crafted Introductions!
Hopefully, this post provides some valuable information to help you when it comes to introductions. What do you think? Willing to try? Or are there other ways you introduce people I haven’t mentioned? If so, I’d love to hear about it!