October 8, 2014

“Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself…..”: Rules for Effective Introductions

As those of you who read the title of this piece and began humming “Sympathy for the Devil” can attest, with this song Mr. Jagger did an excellent job of introducing that somewhat dubious character, the devil.
 
Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t have Mick’s singing chops (not to mention our lack of Keith Richards as backup). Given that, I thought I’d send along a few rules for effective first person, multiple party, and email introductions. 
 
Before I begin, however,
 
A few General Notes:
 
I think most of us know by now to shake hands firmly and look one another in the eye. To that I would add,
 
If You’re Going to Say You’re Happy, SOUND Happy and LOOK happy: Don’t merely pay lip service to the phrase “I’m happy to meet you.” 38% of your impact comes from your tonal quality; 55% from what your body is doing while you are speaking. If you say you’re happy, sound it and look it.
 
Be Specific: While you are undoubtedly memorable, it’s always kind to include specifics as to where you met before and/or why you are pleased to make their acquaintance. This works best with comments along the lines of “X mutual acquaintance speaks so highly of your work/kids/dog” It works less well if you say something along the lines of “X always says you’re so funny/smart/crazy” because what can they say to that? “Yes, I am”??
 
With this in mind, let’s move on to the First Person Introduction. In these cases I always recommend:
 
Erring on the Side of Formality: Perhaps it’s my upbringing but I find it’s hard to go wrong with a soupcon of formality—particularly if the person to whom you are introducing yourself is your elder. Given that, I generally say, “Excuse me, Mr/s. So-and-So, I’m Frances Jones and I’m so happy to meet you because….” Then if they want so say, “Call me Bob” or some such, it’s their call.
 
Having mastered the head-to-head intro, a few thoughts on Multiple Party Introductions:
 
As the Introducer:
 
Don’t Toss a Softball: Including a phrase along the lines of “I just know you two are going to love each other!!” doesn’t leave your introducees (not a word, but you know what I mean) with much wiggle room. After all, what are they supposed to say? “Oh, I just can’t wait to love you!”? No, thanks. Similarly, stay away from, “You two are going to have so much to talk about!” etc. It’s the introduction equivalent of, “Read any good books lately?” People’s minds go blank. Again, be specific about why.
 
As the Introducee:
 
Look at the Person Introducing You—Not at the Person to Whom You are Being Introduced: As you are being introduced, do yourself—and the person to whom you are being introduced—a favor and look at your introducer. This gives the person you are meeting a chance to size you up, which makes them more comfortable, which makes them like you better. (Note, please, this is also true if you are on a panel. Look at your introducer not at your audience. They need time to look at you.)
 
And now, a few words about E-mail Introductions:
 
For Starters, Don’t use the word “Intro”: I recognize it may be a pet peeve, but is it so exhausting to spell out “Introduction”? (Ditto: “Congrats”, by the way, that sends me around the bend….)  Taking the time to type the whole word is an easy way to reassure the people whom you are introducing that you are taking it seriously.
 
Beware TMI: As always, explain exactly what benefit/service/entertainment each might provide for the other—don’t make your readers dig for the information.  There is no need, however, to recount how you’ve known one since you met in the paddling pool and the other since you shared your first illicit tryst. This isn’t about you—it’s about them.
 
Finally, State Your Follow Up Policy: If you have no desire to be involved in every burp and hiccup of the ensuing correspondence, say so. Articulating that will likely save you a big fat follow-up headache. If, on the other hand, you long to be included, be sure you make that clear.
 
Happy introducing!
 
Frances Cole Jones

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