The Art of Introductions

Can we please talk about introducing people at cocktail parties and networking events? It’s quickly become the number one area for everyday people to learn the importance of etiquette. The art of introducing mutual connections is entirely lost. And we have to bring it back – and fast.

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about introducing people in the proper order, which is essential in an entirely professional environment. No, I’m just talking about the basic introductions of one of your friends to another friend when they don’t know each other.

Here’s the scenario: You attend a party with a friend, Terry, when he sees someone, Tim, he knows from another group of friends you don’t share. You go up together and he introduces you. “Tim,” he says to you, “I’d like to introduce you to Tom.” You shake hands with Tim and exchange pleasantries. All is going well, so far. Then it goes off the rails. Your friend, the host, goes astray by asking Tim about Teddy, a friend they share but you don’t know.

Now, you three are standing together, but only two know anything about the topic that you’re sharing, which doesn’t make for good conversation.  Bad host!

When you introduce two people who don’t know each other, your job as the host of the mutual connection is to start a discussion in which all three of you can participate.

A good way to start is to point out a shared common experience. It could be that you all attended the same university, but didn’t know each other then. Or maybe you all work in the same field. Or it could be that you all have traveled to Italy and remember it fondly.

Another opportunity is to talk about interests you all share. Perhaps you three love yoga, or general traveling, or fashion. Start a conversation on one of these topics and you’re all going to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the conversation.

If time permits, as the host you can pivot the conversation to highlight one of your friend’s areas of expertise about which the other might want to know more. For instance, if Tim had mentioned wanting to do more volunteer work and you know Tom sits on a nonprofit board, you could mention this and see where Tim and Tom take the discussion.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what you talk about so long as the two (or more) people who didn’t know each other can participate in the discussion. If it’s a good connection, they’ll be able to carry on the conversation without you facilitating it and the topics will come up naturally.