Not all of those etiquette rules you once learned about social introductions apply when the setting is a professional business environment. Since it’s true what they say about never getting a second chance to make a good first impression, it’s crucial to your corporate success that you understand and observe the protocol of making everyone present feel respected, acknowledged and comfortable.
Business and social introductions share some common ground in that individuals of a “lower” standing are always introduced to those who occupy a higher status. For example, junior staffers are introduced to upper level management and important clients, younger people are introduced to those who are older, guests at a party are introduced to the hosts, and family and friends are introduced to business associates if the context is a business related event, such as a conference, party or dinner.
Gender and Status
The name of the most important person comes first in business introductions. As females continue to climb the corporate ladder, assume positions of leadership and own their own companies, this translates to the likelihood that a young woman’s name would precede that of a male subordinate or colleague who is actually older. The operative word to eliminate in such introductions is “meet,” according to etiquette experts such as Beverely Langford, author of “The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success.” To say, “Evelyn, I’d like you to meet Joe Stumm” instead of “Evelyn, this is Joe Stumm” suggests Joe is the more important of the two and that Evelyn, although the senior executive, is being presented for Joe’s approval. Protocol further requires that both names be used along with their appropriate titles.
It is appropriate in business introductions to briefly clue both sides in on the respective responsibilities or relationship connections of the parties to the person who is introducing them. Examples: “Maria is on loan to us this summer from our satellite office in Singapore.” “Joe is our newest systems manager who will be overseeing our transition to a paperless office.” “Before we got married, Angela worked as a broker in the Glendale regional office.” “Marvin was a student of mine when I taught economics at USC.” These ice-breakers give both sides something to talk about after you have moved on to make additional introductions.
Handshakes, Eye Contact, First Names
Initiate handshakes with new business acquaintances and couple this with good eye contact. Judith Bowman, author of “Don’t Take the Last Donut: New Rules of Business Etiquette,” writes that it is inappropriate to call a new business acquaintance or client by her first name unless and until you have been invited to do so. If you’re making the rounds of a new office in which you will be working, it’s acceptable to repeat the person’s first name at the time you shake hands. Example: “I’m looking forward to working with you, Bob.”
If you’re traveling abroad or entertaining associates from a foreign country, there’s a higher level of formality than that which is observed in the U.S., write the authors of “Global Business Etiquette: A Guide to International Communication and Customs.” In many countries, for instance, deference is always shown to the oldest person in the room, regardless of rank. Business cards are printed in English and the language of the host country and are presented with the host language facing up. Business cards are also treated with greater reverence in foreign countries and studied carefully before slipped into a pocket. There is also a protocol to shake hands with every person present in the room upon arrival as well as upon your departure.