A friend, who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassment, recently told me a story about trying to connect two people. The story goes like this: X—we’ll call my friend—was asked by an entrepreneur friend to be connected with a particular full-stack developer whom Entrepreneur thought would be perfect for his new app idea. X, knowing that 1) Full Stack didn’t care for Entrepreneur through reputation and 2) that Full Stack didn’t possibly have the bandwidth to take on a new project, agreed and attempted to make the introduction during an event where both were present.
However, rather than attempting to smooth over tensions or create a scenario where a meeting could be beneficial for both parties, X got loaded with Entrepreneur, pulled a “Hey Full Stack, have you met Entrepreneur,” and wandered off to connect with old friends. Within literally 5 minutes, Entrepreneur was screaming at Full Stack who stood there, mouth agape, shaking his head in embarrassment.
Introductions at networking events are tricky situations to negotiate, and even trickier when the introducer doesn’t follow basic social mores.
Here are 3 things not to do when making introductions at networking events.
- Don’t assume that two people necessarily want to know each other. What’s good for one isn’t always good for both. Make sure that both parties stand to gain value from the introduction or, at least, that both parties are okay with it.
- Don’t assume that two people can easily find common ground. It’s not enough to just throw people together; give them something non-work-related to talk about. If my friend X had mentioned that both Entrepreneur and Full Stack were obsessed with the Washington Capitals, things might have gone down differently. Remember that introductions aren’t about bringing two pieces of a work puzzle together; they’re about connecting two people.
- Don’t go into an introduction blind. It’s always exciting when someone comes to you looking to meet someone else; after all, bringing people together really increases your social capital. However, make sure that you understand why the one wants to meet the other. If, like Brad McCarty at FullContact, you find that the person asking for the introduction either doesn’t understand their own idea or that the requested party isn’t likely to be interested, bail on the situation. Yes, declining introductions can hurt feelings from time to time, but it’s much better to create a small personal affront that, say, to lose your credibility and trust with those who surround you in your network.
While introductions can be difficult, you can easily set them up for success; just be sure you have all the facts. Knowing the purpose of the introduction, the willingness for both parties to meet, and providing extra-curricular common ground in an intro can be the difference between a harmonious relationship and a drunken screaming match. Just ask my friend X. Or don’t. He won’t be thrilled that I shared this with you all.
Have any introduction horror stories? Any other tips for making them go smoothly? We’d love to hear from you.
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