I got to cross something off my bucket list this year, I was a pastor in a wedding. Two of my really close friends got married and I had the honor of introducing them as man and wife. It was one of the more unique things I will ever get to do. However, I was shocked because I realized that how easy it was to introduce the newly married couple, "I now pronounce you man and wife", however it can be so difficult to introduce yourself properly at networking events.
If introducing a newly married couple is so easy, how is it so difficult to introduce yourself at a networking event? It shouldn't be hard or awkward. Yet we go to an event to meet people who we have never met, who are there to meet people they have never met and are scared and clueless as to how to make our introductions. Most of us gather up 20 seconds of insane courage and, more often than not, dive awkwardly into the introduction. I have immense respect for courage, but there are good and bad ways to introduce yourself that will lead to someone remembering you which is the point. In my years of networking, I have experienced quite a variety of these introductions. The following are some of the most "interesting".
Lesson 1: Never let the act of introducing outshine the introduction.
None of the names used here are real because I did not remember the person or what they did. That is partly the point. I tell new networkers to always keep in mind that 1) most of us, including myself, have done one of these things in our 20 seconds of insane courage, 2) networking is tricky, hard, and has a massive learning curve, and 3) wisdom is only gleaned from the lessons of those that have gone before us.
Lesson 2: Wait until you are acknowledged before jumping in, and then stay and talk.
The Cannonball. These guys are the worst. There I am having a nice conversation with 4 of my friends when a person walks up to the table introduces themselves, in the middle of my sentence, to explain they are so and so and they are glad to meet me, and here is their card. Then they leave without another word and do the same thing at the next table. I believe this is the number one cause of sorting through cards at the end of the event and not being able to remember who half of them are.
Lesson 3: A card is not an introduction, throwing a card is like introducing yourself by yelling your name at someone as you drive by them.
The Dealer: This one makes me laugh every time. This is when someone walks up to you and your friends at a table and proceeds to introduce themselves as they toss you, not hand you, a card. It goes something like this:
"Hi, I'm Rick","Hi, I'm Rick","Hi, I'm Rick", "Hi, I'm Rick" each time dealing you one of their business cards; not passing or handing, dealing. Throwing a card at you. I always laugh when "Rick" is done. A table full of people now have your card, but are thinking to themselves "Did I just get introduced to someone?" Its never a good sign when after you introduce yourself, people are still asking what just happened.
Lesson 4: Use an excuse to refill your plate or cup to disengage from a Never Ending Story. It is good for you and them.
The Never Ending Story: Great movie in 1984. Horrible way to introduce yourself. NES'ers think the only way to make you remember them is to talk to you. The. Entire. Time. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten myself stuck with one of these. I just have to excuse myself to go get more food or drink and pray they find someone else to stick to. The hard part is when they find me again on the other side of the room and I have a full plate . The best way of getting rid of them is by using a trick my friend Rick Sheahan came up with. Give them a card, and tell them to call you. It works because they think they have accomplished their goal; and, to date, not one of them has actually ever called.
Lesson 5: Always give cards face up with your name facing them so they can see, not just hear, what your name and your company's name is.
The Reverse Pick Pocket: This is my favorite networking story. So there I was, eating another plate of food, avoiding the Never Ending Story, when a man I had never met, walked up and introduced himself. While simultaneously shaking my right hand, slipped his card into my shirt pocket with his left hand. I think I probably looked at him for a full 5 seconds before I could say anything. What do you even say? Thanks for card Mr.??? Wait, Let me get the card back out of my pocket so I can know what your name is." Unbelievable. He actually violated my personal space to try and give me his card.
A few things jump out at me about this story. While being very brave, he was very lucky I don't have much personal space. I found it more funny than offensive, but he didn't know that. Try that on a different guy he might get knocked out. We won't even mention how wrong that would be for the opposite sex.
Lesson 6: Its hard enough to coach people to give referrals. People do not give them of their own free will. Especially not to someone they just met.
The Double Carder: This is when someone walks up to a complete stranger and hands them two cards so that you use the extra card to refer them. This is way too forward. Why should I refer you? I just met you, I barely understand what you do, let alone, am I confident enough to refer you to people that value my opinion. I do send double cards in Thank You notes and Christmas cards, but never as an introduction.
Lesson 7: It is hard remembering people at the end of the night. It just becomes confusing when you have two companies.
The Two Card Monte: Similar to the Double Carder, you get two cards from this person too. This time, they are different. One for each company this person has. You then have to play the game similar to the one played on a box on a street corner for money. Follow the queen, which company am I with, anyone can win. I feel like if I hold out the right card and say "this one" I might have a chance to win $5 dollars. Giving someone two cards does not promote two businesses. It just confuses me. Do I have to listen to two 30 second commercials and then pick which one fits my business. What about me? Do I get to give a one minute elevator speech now? I have always viewed people with two business cards from two companies at the same time as confused. I don't usually follow up with them. Take that to heart, as I am not unique in how I handle this.
Lesson 8: I don't know you. I don't know if I need to know you. Let's get pleasantries out of the way before we start with the power point.
The Used Car Salesman: I shake my head in disbelief when I see this. I don't need your companies history, how great your products are, how many people are in your office, and all the awards you have won before I know if I need something you have. Introductions are about introducing yourself, not making a presentation. Let me figure out if I want a sales presentation before you make one. If you are new to networking , you get a pass on this, but all the more reason I ask new networkers to read my posts on networking first.
Learning to introduce yourself can be hard. Introductions take some planning and some courage to introduce yourself to someone you have never met. I hope you understand that while funny, all of these introductions are serious gaffes that lead to zero second meetings. In all of these cases, I don't remember the names of the gaffers and I'm pretty sure that is the whole point of networking. When in doubt go introduce yourself, try this: Shake someone's hand, tell them your name, hand them your card, comment on the food, and see where the conversations goes. It works for me.