The art of the business introduction

introductionsI recently gave a business etiquette essentials presentation to students at UW Bothell. One of the topics I covered was how to make a business introduction. As usual, many people commented on their evaluation form how helpful the information was.

Most of us never learned how to make a proper business introduction. You might have been taught as a child that socially you introduce women and older people first. But, business introductions are different.

In business, gender and age are not a factor. Instead, we introduce the person with the most authority first. This is done by saying that person’s name first. Let’s say I’m introducing a CEO, whose name is Mary Smith, and a VP, whose name is Bob Jones, the introduction would go like this, “Mary Smith, this is Bob Jones”. I said Mary’s name first because she has more authority as the CEO.

There is an exception to the rule when you’re introducing a client or customer to even a CEO. The client is named first. Our customers (clients, members, donors) are very important to us, without them companies cease to exist, so we honor them by saying their name first. If we were introducing the CEO, Mary Smith, and the client, Jane Adams, we would say Jane’s name first – “Jane, this is Mary Smith, our CEO, Mary, this is Jane Adams our client from Microsoft.”

Notice I used a different way of stating the introduction in the second example. There are two ways to make an introduction. The first one is to say the person’s first and last name and then the other person’s first and last name – “Mary Smith this is Bob Jones.” The second way is to say the first person’s first name, then the second person’s first and last name, and lastly the first person’s first and last name – “Mary, this is Bob Jones. Bob, this is Mary Smith.” Either way is fine. The second one takes longer, but it allows you to more easily add a bit of information about each party as I did above – “Jane, this is Mary Smith, our CEO, Mary, this is Jane Adams, our client from Microsoft.”

And that brings me to my next point, no matter which style you use, always add some information about each party so that the people you’re introducing have something to talk about after the introduction. You can state what the people do for a living, their hobbies, how you met, what you were talking about or something interesting about each person

If trying to remember whose name you say first flusters you, don’t worry about it; just make the introduction. There is nothing worse than not introducing people you are talking to. It makes others feel unimportant. It’s better to give an out of order introduction than no introduction at all.

Lastly, if you forget someone’s name when you’re going to do an introduction, simply say, “It’s been one of those days, will you remind me of your name” and then go on with the introduction.


One thought on “The art of the business introduction

  1. Terri

    How would you introduce people on a conference call? Let’s say you are calling the customer for a formal introduction call. Would you go around the room and introduce your team first or let the client’s team introduce themselves on the other end of the phone?

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