The Art of the Introduction

October 16th, 2007

For a number of years, and especially since launching my own business a year and a half ago, I have made a study of how to introduce people in a way that is meaningful, appreciated and effective. It’s a challenging thing, to be sure, and subject to a number of variables. Still, I’ve been on all sides of the intro equation and I have drawn a few conclusions. Apologies they seem obvious- things often seem that way to me too once I’ve articulated them.

1 ) Both parties need to be receptive. This doesn’t mean that both people need to be actively looking for one another, but you need to be able to define a need that each introducee fills for the other. The risk here is that the intro may seem “spammy” to one side if the need hasn’t been defined.

2) Flowing directly from #1, define the value to each party. It may be specific and immediate (e.g. “here’s my friend. He is starting a company and needs a lawyer”) or it may be longer term (“so-and-so is an accountant and I think there may be a lot of overlap between your businesses”). Whatever it is, you need to be clear about that.

3) Once points 1 and 2 have been addressed the introducer needs to determine a proper form for the introduction. Quick email intros can be effective and quite valuable, but usually only where there is a short-term defined need. It takes a little more commitment to actually bring people together- to suggest that the three of you all grab coffee or lunch, for example- but lacking a short-term reason for the people to contact one another anything less may end in awkwardness.

Articulating these factors helps me think about how to make useful introductions among my contacts, and how to get the most out of introductions people make for me as well. I hope this provides some valuable to others as well.

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