Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Minimum Viable Introductions

If you search on Google for the term "Minimum Viable Introduction" in quotes, there are only four results (UPDATE: Mere minutes after posting this, there are now six results.  Two of them are me).  And only one of them (a tweet) is really about introducing people to one another.  I could have sworn that someone in the techochamber had written about this a while ago, but I obviously can't find it now.  So, I suppose it's my duty to write something semi-permanent on the topic.

I've written before about the art of the introduction, but I glossed over the introductory email.  Let's review what generally happens before I introduce two people to one another:

  1. Person A asks me to intro them to Person B.  (Or I suggest to A that they should meet B)
  2. I ask Person B if they'd like to meet Person A.
  3. Person B agrees to the intro.
Now it's time for me to properly introduce Persons A and B.  What should go in that email?  There are many way to handle this, so let's review a few.

Great example from my sister here, introducing me to her friend's younger brother [names have been changed to protect the innocent]:

Bob and Andrew,
As promised to each of you separately, I'm writing to e-introduce you. I'm also copying Diane because sisters rule.

Bob - As I've mentioned to you at least in part, here's some background on Andrew. He went to Brown, from which graduated in [ancient times] with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He minored in frat parties and baseball heckling. I kid, of course, though I assume such degrees are not only possible at Brown, but also attainable with minimal effort. (ivy league humor. hilarious!) After graduating from Brown, he moved to New York, where he... [editor's note: I've removed 150 words of flowery praise from my sister to spare you the gory details]. He's excited about meeting you and talking about your career and generally offering insight and the like, which I assume will involve meeting for a drink and talking about "synergy." I've now exhausted my understanding of his job and of business in general.

Andrew - I've forwarded you Bob's resume, so you already know he's a genius (and of course you know Diane, so you also know he comes by it naturally). You should note that not only is Bob winning college, he is also in a leadership position at a major fraternal organization. My general recollection of his fraternity was [redacted for the sake of all involved], but I'm sure that in the interim it's become a scholarly crowd of gentlemen who respect and honor women. Anyway. I think you two have a lot in common, and I know you're looking forward to being a help now and going forward, so thanks for that, from all of us.

And with that...I'll leave it to the two of you to be in touch. 

Here's an example introduction I sent yesterday [names and specific details changed again]:
Gertrude - Thanks for agreeing to an introduction. Mortimer (cc'd) just joined HotCompanyX a couple weeks ago to run their data science and analytics efforts. We were talking last week, and your old company popped into my head. I thought it would be great if you could share some lessons from your days in the space. Thanks again for being open to that.

Morty - Gertrude was the data science wizard at her old company a few years back, thinking a lot about the space you're in now. She's since moved on to become the Chief Scientist at HotCompanyZ, which sounds like a ton of fun.

Anyway, I'll let you guys take it from here.
And now for my new favorite: 
Again, an example from yesterday:
Thelma/Louise - Consider this your minimum viable introduction.
Or you could shorten that to:
Thelma/Louise - Please meet.
So, when should you use the various versions?  Version A is really only appropriate when you've got some time on your hands and you're introducing two friends you know well.  It's a ton of fun to read and write intros like that, but you have to know that your audience is going to be in on the joke.  They have to know you're being more than a little over the top on purpose.  If you sent this type of intro to the wrong person, they'd think you were an arrogant jerk.  But used appropriately, a ton of fun.

Version B is the one I use most often.  It reminds both people why I'm introducing them, which is always a help when one or the other forgets why they're talking to each other or why they should bother responding to the email.  It's also great to use this when it's taken a while to get the introduction arranged.  It helps re-set the context for all involved.  This is also a fairly professional, but friendly introduction.  There's probably something rigid and formal that should sit between my options A and B above, but I've never bothered.  If you dig deep enough into the MS Word template archive, you can surely find something to fill the gap I've left you.

Version C is also best used with people you're comfortable with.  If they're startup people or familiar with the concept of the Minimum Viable Product, all the better.  I used this type of intro yesterday when I'd already given each person an overview of the other in the previous 30 minutes, and I knew they'd follow up quickly.  There was a low chance that either person would be confused about the purpose of the introduction, and I also knew that they'd appreciate my brevity.  Busy people are generally happy when you get to the point quickly, and the person who asked for the intro won't feel like they've created an obligation to write a 2000-word introduction.  For three busy people, the Minimum Viable Introduction makes things move quickly.

So aspiring networkers, get out there and make it happen.

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