The Art of the Introduction: A Primer

I make 12-18 introductions per week on average. Some of the intros I make are favors to friends, some of them are to journalists, some are for the startups I advise, and some were because I thought that two people just needed to meet each other.

Most of the time, the introductions I see people make are terse with little context and even less reason for both sides to follow up. The conversion rate for these types of introductions is poor.

This doesn’t have to be the case for your introductions, though.

Introductions are as much an art as they are a science. Making a few changes to your intros will not only dramatically increase their quality, but it will improve your standing with both parties. In other words, you’ll become a far better Connector.


The Anatomy of a Great Introduction


I follow a structure when I make intros — I don’t reinvent the wheel every time. This means I can get a GOOD intro out the door in under two minutes.

Consistency is important — it gives your intros more continuity.

Below are the four key structure points of my introductions. I’m using John Smith of Kleiner Perkins and Jane Doe of Google as examples for this introduction so you get a better idea of my style of intros. Of course, my method may not be for you — definitely adjust your system to match your personality and the personality of the people you’re introducing.

Here are my four key structure points for introductions:

  • The Subject Line: The subject line of any email introduction should be simple and straightforward. It should convey two things: who the people being introduced are and what they do. The person who is receiving the introduction should be first in the subject, while the person being introduced should be second. “John Smith (Kleiner Perkins), Meet Jane Doe (Google)” is a typical subject line for my introduction.
  • First Intro: Make the first introduction and explain, in three sentences or so, who this person is, why you like them and why you’re making this introduction. I also usually say something fun or interesting about the person. In my example, I’m going to address John Smith first and introduce him to Jane Doe.
  • Second Intro: Great introductions actually consists of two separate introductions. I always flip the introduction and explain who the other person is and why I like them. In this case, I’m going to address Jane Doe and introduce him to John Smith. Typically the second intro is shorter because Jane already knows John and, in all likelihood, asked me for the introduction.
  • The Loop out: Unless you need both parties to report back to you, it’s best if you get out of the conversation. Thus a simple “Feel free to loop me out” sentence helps remove unnecessary clutter from your inbox.

Now let’s apply this to an actual introduction. Here’s what an introduction between John and Jane might look like:

SUBJECT: John Smith (Kleiner Perkins), Meet Jane Doe (Google).

John,

I’d like to introduce you to Jane Doe. She’s one of the super-talented product managers over at Google — she’s been kicking some ass over on the Chrome team. She’s also a master scuba diver (I’ve done a bunch of dives with her!) Jane is actually working on a startup, and I knew that the two of you had to connect.

Jane,

John is one the partners at Kleiner Perkins. He’s led some awesome investments in Google, Zaarly, Erly and Flipboard. He’s been my sounding board over the years for my crazy startup ideas.

Feel free to BCC me/loop me out.

Cheers,
~ Ben


Final Thoughts


The more introductions you make, the better you will get at making them. Don’t be afraid to make introductions if you think both sides will gain something out of it. It ends up being a benefit to you, too, as you become a greater connecter and gain credibility on both sides of the table. The positive karma you create by connecting two smart people often comes back in wonderful and unexpected ways.

Don’t make an introduction if you’re uncomfortable, though. If you think someone is not ready, or if you think the intro will do more harm than good, just tell the truth to the person asking for the introduction. Never be afraid to protect your reputation.

I hope this quick primer has been helpful, even if much of it is common sense. Please post in the comments if you have any other tips or thoughts on the art of the introduction!