The Art of Introductions

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

We would likely all agree that connecting people in business is good to do for the people themselves, and good for business. Making introductions may seem straightforward, but there is far more to it than meets the eye if you are doing it thoughtfully. Over the years I have developed a method for this that ensures each person feels seen and heard — and I have seen amazing connections take place as a result. I hope this guidance may help you achieve the same.

Listen actively to identify connections that will make sense for both people.

As I meet with people in my network, I listen to their triumphs and trials and work to determine how I can help them. I use potential connections as a key tool as I do this, asking myself, who do I know that might help this person with their needs? By keeping this question top of mind, often the connection comes to me clearly in my mind’s eye. I have practiced this over many years and find it now to be a well-developed muscle that I exercise (mostly!) with accuracy. I know this is true when a contact shows enthusiasm and interest as I describe the potential connection. Sometimes this is as straightforward as a person looking for job opportunities in a city where I have a lot of contacts. Sometimes it is specific and I happen to know someone (“we are growing out of our office space” “I need to strengthen my team’s presentation skills”.) When I really hit the jackpot, the people connected end up doing business together and we all become friends!

Always use the double-opt-in.

Just because I think someone would be a good connection for someone else does not mean they will think so, nor does it mean the other person will think so. To gauge people’s time and appetite, I always ask each person if they are interested in being connected, and only make the connection if both people opt-in. When I ask, I make it easy for them to say yes or no by saying “no worries if this is not a good idea for you with no explanation needed.” (attribution to Michael Gordon for this great wording!) While this approach takes longer to get to the actual introduction, it ensures both parties welcome it. I have also been surprised at times when people have said “no thank you” and I learn from their feedback every time. For example, I recently wanted to connect with a colleague for a potential speaking engagement focusing on finance. The potential speaker politely declined because she is moving away from speaking on this topic. While this does not happen most of the time, when it does it validates the importance of asking first.

Create a thoughtfully written introduction.

How many times have you gotten an introduction with no context? And doesn’t that make you feel confused, or frustrated? I got one recently from a rather distant contact, introducing me to someone, and simply saying “you two should meet!” Sure, you can do the work yourself to vet a stranger, but it is far better to have the person making the introduction connect the dots of who each person is — with the specific context of why they should meet. As part of this, I always provide a brief yet hardworking descriptive paragraph about each individual with a hotlink to their LinkedIn bio and/or website, as well as my point of view of why I think they will each benefit from meeting. When I do this, I get the added bonus of pausing on my colleagues’ backgrounds and am often inspired by their notable accomplishments. It truly makes me happy to brag about one person to the other.

Keep a record of those you introduce and follow up for feedback.

It may seem silly to keep track of this and follow up later, yet this is a critical step to making successful introductions. When you follow up, you learn whether the connection was fruitful the way you thought and, as importantly, whether each person followed through to make the connection happen. It is important to realize — a successful connection is a reflection of your relationship with each person and affects your personal brand, as much as it affects the future potential relationship with one another. By checking in afterward, you gain valuable information toward future introductions, as well as the opportunity to nudge one party or the other if they are not following through.

Quality, not quantity.

These days I make one to three introductions per week, which is a lot. This is a consequence of the size of my network and my role with my company. The goal, however, should be to create meaningful and purposeful connections that will have positive, long-lasting effects for each and both people — not to hit any specific number. Be discerning about who should meet who and for what reason. Choose carefully, and follow through completely.

Some of my best relationships have come from thoughtful introductions others have made for me, and my goal is to do the same for others. Through introductions, I have helped people find job opportunities, join communities, gain new opportunities for themselves or their businesses, access critical insight on business issues, and find new friends and colleagues. I even helped one colleague meet her future spouse (though to be honest, I was as surprised as anyone when this was the outcome and it was not my original intent in introducing them!) The art of introductions means that 1 + 1 always equals more than 2. Take the time to do it thoughtfully, and I believe you will unlock this magic for yourself and many others. Happy connecting, friends.

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Nancie McDonnell Ruder

Nancie McDonnell Ruder

Owner, Noetic Consulting, LLC; Marketing Consultant: Author, Researcher, Strategist, Trainer