Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meet & Greet Others With Poise & Purpose

Earlier this year, I blogged about various strategies for networking success. But what about the art of introductions?

As I’m back from attending a National Speakers Association conference, this topic is fresh on my radar, as I met many colleagues who I haven’t seen in awhile – and whose names didn’t jump to mind -- and dozens of new people, too.

Sure, life would be much easier if everyone walked around with name badges all the time – eliminating the need to be introduced. But, that sure isn’t going to happen!

So, professionals need to master the fine art of introducing themselves and others. There are certain protocols to follow when making introductions in a business or work-related setting.

How to Introduce Others

When you’re standing with other people and are not introduced, how do you feel? Probably awkward. Some professionals who are in this situation don’t feel confident or assertive enough to introduce themselves to people they haven’t met.

Here’s where you can demonstrate your professional polish and make others feel comfortable. The proper introduction involves three steps. You always start and end by mentioning the person you want to honor.

•First mention the name of the person of greatest authority or importance. Gender or age is not the deciding factor. When a client is involved, he or she should be mentioned first.

•The second step includes saying something about the person you’re introducing to the key person and his or her full name.

•To complete the introduction, go back to the person of highest rank (customer, etc.) , state his or her full name, and say something about him or her.

This is an example of a proper business introduction – combined with all three elements: “Bill Smith, I want you to meet Pam Holland, who is our Chief Operating Officer. Pam, Bill is the Training Director at ABC Corporation, our valued client”

Here are two other pointers to remember when making an introduction or being introduced:

•It is appropriate to stand whenever possible, regardless of gender, if you are seated, before making an introduction or when you are being introduced.

•If no one is available to introduce you -- or when the person you are with forgets to do so, it is always good manners to introduce yourself.

Always have self-introduction ready to use. This should be brief, informative and memorable -- a bit like a 10-second commercial. For example: "Hello, I'm Marjorie Brody. I work with people to improve their professional impact.” This type of introduction will almost always encourage the other person to ask something like, “How do you do that?” promoting further dialogue.

In a small group setting, what should you do if you forget the name of someone you need to introduce to another person? The clever way would be to introduce the person you already know. Say, “I don’t believe you’ve met Marjorie Brody, have you?” This will almost always result in the third person saying, “No. We’ve never met. My name is Frank Black” – or words to that effect. Or, at the very least, say something like, “My name is Marjorie Brody. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

If the person doesn’t offer his or her name, you can say, “And your name is …?” or “And you are … ?”

If, however, there is no other person, and it’s just a one-on-one encounter, just say your name. Don’t assume everyone remembers you – most likely, the other person will then give his or her name, too. If not, then use some humor or admit your lack of memory by saying something like, “I’m having a senior moment. You are….?” Or, “I have totally blanked on your name – please help me!”

Oops! Now What?

What are some mistakes to avoid when making introductions or being introduced?

•Mispronouncing someone’s name

•Getting person’s title or company name wrong

•Speaking so fast that no one understands you or hears the information you’re saying

•Forgetting to shake hands or having a weak handshake

•Not making effective eye contact

•Only talking about yourself and your achievements

I once witnessed the following exchange: A manager introduced one of his employees to a client with whom he was meeting. The employee’s name was unusual. After introducing the employee with the unusual name, the manager said, “Can you believe that any mother would name a child that?” It’s important to remember that what is an unusual name for you may be perfectly normal elsewhere – and it’s poor etiquette to mention any observed differences anyway.

Meeting and greeting doesn’t have to be something you dread. If you prepare yourself and remember the advice here you’ll be a confident networking pro!


Sue said...

I agree that the person of highest rank or importance should be mentioned first. And as you point out that person particularly in business is the client or customer. I think we forget that because the old "social" rules of a woman having higher rank don't really apply now. I've also heard you shouldn't say "this is" rather say, "I'd like to introduce", or "I'd like you to meet". What is best?

Marjorie Brody said...

I agree with you, Sue! "I'd like you to meet ..." or "I'd like to introduce you to ..." is better than "This is ... ."

Sometimes, though, you go with the flow. "This is ..." sounds more conversational -- and the goal is to make the introduction.