This article speaks so many volumes. It’s imperative to always introduce someone properly. I always say, you are introducing someone’s brand. If you are unable to introduce someone by their brand iterim, then either their brand is not defined, or you are unable to define their brand. In providing a memorable and impressionable introduction is the beginning of “first impression.”
If you’ve ever been introduced by someone and cringed, you’ve felt first-hand why it’s so important to get introductions right.
Maybe they got your title wrong. Maybe they referred to you as a former roommate: you thought you were real friends. They said you were neighbors when really you’re dating. They picked something insignificant to define you by (“likes ultimate Frisbee”) and it woefully stuck with your audience.
Accurate or not, introductions can be stubbornly hard to undo. We may rationally understand that people, places, and situations are rich and complex, but our minds intuitively seek to simplify them–when we meet someone new, we grab just a few pieces of information and file details away for later recall. It’s the brain’s way of looking for shortcuts. Once we’ve found a shortcut, it’s hard to train ourselves out of using it.
That means that every time you introduce someone, you brand them for others in some way. If that sounds like a lot of pressure, it is. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of how you’re introducing others, and how they’re introducing you, too.
What makes a good introduction? Good introductions are genuine, thoughtful, and considered. They are made with goodwill and intention. When you are on the receiving end of a good introduction, you know it.
How to make a good introduction:
Introduce a person, not a resume. Introductions by job title or company are common: they are an easy default descriptor for a person. They are also frankly a little bit lazy.
Good introductions are based on who the person you are introducing is as a person, not as a resume. People are typically much more interesting than their jobs might imply.
That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t mention someone’s job title or company in an introduction: some situations explicitly call for it (i.e. professional conferences or meet-ups), and sometimes a person’s profession really is core to who they are. But context is important. The intro by job title isn’t always the best option for every situation.
If you do lead with a “standard” intro (a job title, a school, some other “off the resume” introduction), complement the intro with something to make the person more relatable and human. (And fun!) An interesting, flattering tidbit can go a long way.
Take this recent introduction a friend of mine gave: Ximena works at LinkedIn, but more importantly, she’s writing a series about how Millennials date. (Validating, and an excellent conversation starter.)
Think about story, not just facts. Your roommate, or your partner in crime for Whiskey Wednesdays? Your neighbor, or your biking buddy on the weekends? Your co-worker, or your co-worker who throws down at karaoke? Share what happened that one time. (As long as it’s not too incriminating, of course.) Not only does a story help others remember the person being introduced, but they make the introducer – the storyteller – more memorable, too.
Give more than just historical context. Saying you’re friends through so-and-so is just the tip of the iceberg. Look for common ground between those you’re introducing, and share relevant context. (I.e.: We met through our wonderful friend Leslie. Leslie thought we’d get along because we are both interested in mentorship. You’re involved in mentoring, too, right?)
Go big. Use the superlative. It’s nice to flatter your friends. Introduce them as the impressive people they really are! (I.e.: This is Ximena. She’s the most creative person I know.) People will appreciate your kind words and remember them the next time around. Just remember not to toss the superlative around too easily – use it wisely and honestly.
Remember that in many ways, your introductions say a lot about your values. Do you seek and value external status markers like educational pedigree? Are you more interested in the personal or professional attributes of your peers and contacts? Do you define others by social hierarchy, relative to a specific social group? When you consider how you typically introduce others, what do your introductions say about you?
Be meaningful, not transactional. Good introductions are not made in haste. Think hard about what someone might be proudest of, what they enjoy thinking about, or what interesting thing you know about them and admire. Lead with those details, and notice whether they are the right ones. That’s likely the way you’d like to be introduced, too.