Etiquette Tip of the Month

Proper Introductions

First, a special thank you to Greg Dalton for submitting the suggestion to write about proper introductions. It is a subject I am asked about often; yet to fully discuss it, can get a bit involved. Therefore, to keep within the style intended for this publication - brief, fun, and educational - this month's tip is only the core of proper introductions. For additional information on international, country specific, and diplomatic situations, please contact me with your questions and I'll be happy to address them.

When performing introductions, here's what I call my 2-step golden rule to proper business introductions:

Step 1: The first person's name you say is always the most important person.
Step 2: Thereafter, everyone else's name is introduced to that most important person.

ALWAYS say the most important person's name first. In business rank and status are the primary determinants to who takes precedence over whom. Gender and age are typically not factors.

NEVER use the word "meet" when introducing people. For example, read the following sentence and tell me who's the CFO and who is the newly hired staff member. "Jane Doe, I would like you to meet John Smith."

Which person is the most important person in this sentence? Who sounds like the most important person? Is Jane or John the CFO?

We just learned the most important person is the first person. Yet by the way this sentence reads, it appears John is the more important person of the two. So who's the CFO?

When you use the word "meet" to introduce someone, you will always throw the emphasis off toward to the wrong person, thereby falling out of protocol for a proper business introduction. In my mind, throw that "m-word" out of your default brain and mental dictionary of proper introductions.

Rather, for an informal introduction, use the words "this is" as the bridge between saying the most important person's name first and then introducing the second person. "Jane Doe this is John Smith, our new staff member. Jane Doe is our CFO."

Be careful not to get too wordy when using the word "introduce." For instance, which of these three sentences are correct?
A) Jane Doe may I introduce John Smith
B) Ms. Doe may I introduce to you Mr. Smith
C) Jane Doe may I introduce you to John Smith.
ANSWER: A is correct and best by using the fewest words; B is correct although wordy; C is not correct, because by switching the words "to you" to "you to" you have again thrown the emphasis onto the wrong person.

Other reminders:
Keep the forms of the address equal. If you use Ms. Doe, you must use Mr. Smith. You should not say, "Jane Doe this is Mr. Smith."
In regular situations, it is best to use both a person's first and last name when making introductions. To use only a first name is not introducing the total person.
Do say something about the people you are introducing so they will have something from which to springboard their own conversation. Then you may excuse yourself to meet and greet others.

Whenever introducing dignitaries and other notable people, such as elected officials, you may want to use the word "present" instead of the words "this is" or "introduce." It is the style most often used in diplomatic and international arenas.

Happy Practicing!

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