You only get one chance to make a favorable impression for yourself, and for your colleagues and clients.
Whether you’re hosting a conference, mingling at a networking event, or leading your team through a presentation to a new client, there’s one step that’s inevitable: introducing people to one another. If you’re like most busy professionals, your introductions of your colleagues and clients feel perfunctory, are unplanned, and come across as either terse or rambling.
They deserve better than that – and so do you. As Plato wrote in The Republic, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Introducing people to each other is the beginning of establishing credibility (for them and for you), building rapport, creating connections, starting or strengthening relationships, making quality referrals, setting the stage for future business collaborations, and much more.
In addition, when you demonstrate that you care about your colleague and clients enough to learn and share more memorable about them than is on their business card or LinkedIn profile, you make yourself more memorable too.
Consider this typical introduction you might make at a networking event:
“Dan, this is my colleague Karen, and she’s a lawyer.”
Is it satisfactory? Sure. Is it accurate? Let’s hope so. Is it flattering, intriguing, or engaging? Not one bit.
First of all, it doesn’t make Karen sound particularly interesting (unless Dan really needs a new lawyer). Second, it doesn’t offer a multi-dimensional view of Karen beyond her profession. Third, it is unlikely to prompt an engaging follow up question from Dan beyond, “So, Karen, what kind of law do you practice?”
If I were Karen, I would be getting ready to answer that question in the same superficial way it was asked. And if I were Dan, I would be preparing myself to listen politely, and then move on to find someone I already know that I have something in common with – or at least move on to the good snacks and drinks.
What would be better?
“Dan, this is my colleague Karen. While she’s a lawyer by day, at night she plays a mean alto saxophone with a jazz band at a club downtown.”
Even if Dan doesn’t need a lawyer OR a saxophonist, he is much more likely to be genuinely interested in learning more about Karen – simply because there’s more compelling, unique content to draw from. Karen would likely feel flattered that you complimented her, and that you remembered something about her interests, passions and talents. (Research shows that we are susceptible to the positive effects of both sincere and insincere flattery – even when we can sniff out the phony stuff). I would even bet that Dan is now getting excited to hear how you’ll introduce him to Karen!
If you want to distinguish yourself from your competitors, polish your presence, wow people with your networking skills, build solid personal and professional relationships, and be invited to attend (or even speak) at more events that feel critical to your business growth, try these three strategies for making more memorable, flattering introductions.
1. Story: Replace “This is Doug and he’s an accountant” with a story about how you met Doug, or when Doug helped you out of a jam (accounting or otherwise), or when Doug impressed you personally or professionally.
For example, “This is Doug. I learned that he was a brilliant accountant the hard way – when I got a terrifying letter from the IRS about back taxes that I knew I had paid, but didn’t know what to do next. That’s when my wife told me about her co-worker Doug, who knew just what to do and (as you can see) has kept me out of jail ever since.” An important note: make sure the story you tell about the other person makes them look good – always.
2. Surprise: Replace “This is Nancy and she owns a floral shop” with something about Nancy that surprised you and/or would be surprising to others.
Consider, “This is Nancy. She owns an elegant floral shop in the financial district that does everything from personal bouquets to corporate baskets and even conferences and weddings. And despite the fact that she loves her job, it turns out that she’s allergic to about 20 different flowers. I was shocked to hear that but she has that as a fun fact right on her website. I mean, can you imagine being literally allergic to your job?”
Remember that a surprise shouldn’t surprise the other person. You don’t want to reveal something embarrassing or too personal.
3. Shared: Replace “This is Mark and he runs a chain of computer repair stores” with something that you and Mark discovered you have in common outside of work.
Try: “This is Mark. When he told me that he ran a computer repair store, I confessed that I still have my 1982 Commodore 64 computer in my basement. That’s when Mark laughed and admitted to me that he did, too!”
How can you make this even better? Mention something that you think Mark and the person you’re introducing Mark to have in common. “This is Mark, who runs a chain of computer repair stores. I think he’s a great person for you to get to know, not just for when you have a computer crash, but so that you have someone else to talk about University of Michigan football with. I’m surrounded by Wolverines!”
Introducing people doesn’t have to be hard. But it doesn’t have to be boring, either.