Making and receiving introductions is helpful for all professionals, whether related to a potential job, board role, client, business opportunity or other resource. Introductions also bring together individuals with complimentary businesses, skills and research interests, as well as facilitate connections between people with commonalities (e.g., fellow alumni).
A good introduction is a catalyst for conversation and relationship development. While a lot of introduction etiquette may sound basic and obvious, all too often, people miss the opportunity and don’t provide enough information. When you introduce two parties, it’s important to show that you’re making a valuable introduction for both of them.
Similarly, when you’re the one being introduced, it’s important to be responsive and timely. Competing work priorities, a flood of unread emails or a calendar filled with meetings is no excuse for skipping the basics of professional etiquette. Your actions before, during and after introductions shape the impression you make on others and reflect your personal brand.
Keep the following tips in mind when making and receiving introductions to help set the stage for effective relationship building.
When Making Introductions
Think carefully. When making introductions — in person or online — thoughtfully consider what to say. Be strategic; the information you initially share will help each party to get a good, high-level picture of the other, spark interest and provide fodder for conversation.
Include current, relevant information about each person and, when possible, provide links to helpful resources like LinkedIn profiles, company websites etc. Explain how you know them, e.g., We worked together at ABC Company. Or, We met at the XYZ Conference when were both on a panel about unique ways to sell widgets. If appropriate, include something personal too., e.g., She’s a triathlete, like you! Use discretion with anything personal, however, as oversharing can lead to an awkward situation.
Reconnect BEFORE an introduction. If you’re loosely connected to someone — or haven’t been in touch in a while — reconnect FIRST whenever possible, as this will make for better introductions later. Also, don’t exaggerate the depth of your connection to someone or how long you’ve known each other, i.e., purport to have a closer relationship or stronger influence with them than you do, as this can reflect poorly on you later.
Provide a head’s up or ask permission. While you don’t always need permission to introduce people (especially when you know both parties well), in some situations it’s appropriate to ask first, like when you want to connect people about a job opportunity. Even when it’s not necessary, seeking permission is still a beneficial and courteous gesture, e.g., Hi Joe. I met the CMO of ABC Company at a networking event last week. She just moved here from LA and is looking to meet other marketing execs involved in the widget industry. Is it ok if I send an email intro?
When Being Introduced
When you make meaningful introductions, your contacts are more likely to introduce you to others too. Just as you’re expected to make honest, professional and courteous introductions, when you’re on the receiving end, you have obligations as well.
Response time is everything. If you’re introduced to someone by email or LinkedIn, REPLY PROMPTLY. Not only is it rude not to, failing to reply in a timely manner reflects badly on your personal brand and can embarrass the person who initiated the connection. Worse yet, slow responses can lead to opportunity loss and dissuade others from making introductions on your behalf in the future.
If you can’t make immediate plans to meet or speak, always respond to the new contact and suggest next steps, such as emailing again in a few weeks if you’re swamped (hint: put it in your calendar so you don’t forget), meeting for a coffee/drink or scheduling a call. Not responding — whether to the initial email or follow-up steps — is not acceptable.
Send thanks immediately. When someone makes an introduction on your behalf, they’ve taken the time to think about how you might benefit from knowing a specific person. In doing so, they’ve also put their own reputation on the line. This investment of time and thought always deserves prompt and gracious acknowledgement, which easily can be accomplished by including them in your initial response to the email introduction.
Keep them informed. Following a successful connection, don’t forget to circle back to the person who first introduced you and update them about how things went, especially if the person has been a great resource for a job or business opportunity, or led you to additional connections. Communicating the status of the new relationship and how it’s helped you (or how you’ve helped the other person) is one of the best ways you can convey your appreciation for their efforts. Your feedback also may encourage that person to think of others you’d benefit from meeting as well.
However, if the person responsible for your meeting has to follow up with you to see if you ever connected or if they hear about the results from the person they introduced you to, it may reflect poorly on you. You’re best bet is always to fill them in so they’re not left wondering.