Introductions when properly orchestrated are key to productive and efficient networking. A good host with an accommodating and welcoming lead can instantly place all attendees at ease while making them feel welcome and connected. The effectiveness of formal introductions in a social setting, cannot be emphasized enough. I share with you first hand an experience I had on a recent business trip I took to Jamaica and what can result when there are no formal introductions in a small gathering over a social dinner meeting.
We were staying at a resort and each day we only had to attend a short 2 hour session. But in the evening, we broke into small groups of 5 couples, each hosted by a different sales lead. The evening of our dinner meet, I didn’t pay attention to the formal dress code at our select dining location – NO SHORTS – so I had to walk back to our room, change & walk back. This removed me from my group by 20 minutes, as this was a large resort. Of course, whenever we leave a party for even 5 minutes, we feel we missed the world, moved to the back of the line and remain out of sync for the remainder of the event. I returned and my group graciously delayed ordering until I rejoined them. Regrouping, I still felt I missed the intros, the short bios of each person and other details which would have made me feel included in our inner circle. For the remainder of the 3 hour evening I felt a bit off, like I missed key information about the others around our table. Despite trying to connect and get a conversation going, for me it stayed light, superficial and just didn’t go anywhere. Food was great and so were the people. The evening end and I felt it was my initial absence that placed me outside. Oh, well. No big deal I thought.
Next morning my wife and I we were having breakfast on the beach. Another couple who we quickly befriended at the start of this trip joined us. We quickly shared our menu choices from evening prior and ensuing conversations. When I mentioned I felt outside, obviously because of my 20 minute departure, and having missed everyone’s introduction. Susan quickly interjected and stated, “No, no, you didn’t miss anything. There were no introductions done by our host !”. Instantly I was relieved and retreated from blaming myself. Things quickly explained themselves as I felt many times during the evening how difficult it was for the other couples, including myself, to connect with conversation over some commonality we all should have shared.
Lessons I learned, if I am ever a host;
- Start by introducing myself and give a short 1 minute bio of some detail the others can use to bridge and connect with me.
- Go to the next couple or person and invite the same from them.
- As people are sharing some details of themselves, its natural others will jump in with some humor or sharing connection.
- Continue till everyone has had their chance to introduce themselves and share something about themselves. Before you are done going around the table, some may start conversing with their neighbors about some common interest they just shared.
- As the evening progresses, if I as host see a person or couple fading from conversation, I can quickly pipe in and give them a boost by asking them to further elaborate on some detail about themselves they mentioned in their intro.
- If there is no designated host, then I take the lead and like a catalyst, start the formal introductions within the group. Others are sure to join in.
Proper introductions and a polished host can go a long way to set people at ease, allow them to connect with others and help them share their commonality of knowledge, skill or interest. This is a key skill in furthering our efficient and networking productivity. For me, the actual gift was in being absent and removed from my group for that initial 20 minutes. This allowed me to fully witness and feel what it is like when proper formal introductions early in a social event are not done. People may feel like they are on the outside looking in.