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What is the protocol for doing an introduction over email?

Jul 27, 2015

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Email introductions are a poorly-understood art and are often done too hastily without careful thought. Making introductions the right way can be the best way to help two people and create a lot of value. But doing it wrong can make one of the parties look bad and can alienate one or both parties from you.

Before we go through the mechanics, let’s first define your objectives as the introducer. Your goal should be to benefit both people you are introducing. Both parties should be happy you made the introduction, glad they met the other person, and thankful to you. You should not bother making an introduction if it will only benefit one of the parties.

Steps on the proper way to make introductions:

1. Take the time
Good introductions require careful thought and preparation. Take the time to really think why both parties will benefit from each other and spell it out in an email. Hasty introductions can have minimal or even negative impact. I’m sure we’ve all been victims of hastily written email intros. I recently got one that said "Auren/John – you two just HAVE to meet each other. You two take it from here." – I’d like to know who John is and why we should meet.

2. Ask for permission
A good way to start the introduction process is to first email the people and ask them for permission. Make the case of why they should meet the other party and ask them if it would be ok for you to introduce the two. Usually it will work well, but occasionally someone will say that they are too busy. If that’s the case, you just saved both friends a lot of trouble.

3. Make sure there is a quick follow up
You never want to make an introduction where both parties don’t immediately respond to each other. To prevent this from happening, make sure that the weight of your email encourages both people to quickly arrange a time to talk.

4. Take the time of each person into account
Be clear in your email introduction what the next action for the two parties should be. Suggest whether they should meet for lunch, coffee, over the phone, or just exchange emails. Often people should just have a quick phone call and you don’t want to waste the time of one or both people by suggesting a lunch.

Rarely introduce your friend to someone just because your friend wants to meet her. There needs to be an exchange of value between the two people and both parties need to come away with more value than their time is worth. To find a worthwhile introduction, you may need to proactively suggest people who your friends might want to meet.

5. Clearly give the location of each person
Location is one detail that is forgotten all too often but can save a lot of back and forth communication. If one person is in Los Angeles and the other is in New York, let them know. If they are going to be the same city in two weeks, they can now meet in person. If they are going to arrange a call, they will now know what time zone they are in.

6. Be sure to give their first and last name and a quick bio of the person
I often get intros from people to – so I know the first name of the person is “Jim” but don’t know their last name and it makes it difficult to save the person’s contact information. And a quick bio will go a long way in giving context. If you can, include their LinkedIn profile (or at least enough information for either party to get the information).

7. Mention if two people have met before
If you know the two parties have met before, even if only briefly, be sure to mention it in the introduction. Often people forget brief meetings so you can save them from embarrassment.

8. Include all necessary parties
If the people use their assistants, then copy the assistants of both parties if appropriate.

9. Only forward emails that make the originator look good
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been introduced to someone by an introducer who forwards me a semi-confidential email chain that I probably shouldn’t see. Forward only positive emails and, if you have to, edit the email before forwarding to make both sides look good.

10. Make intentions of your introduction clear
If you are introducing two single people, make sure that the purpose of your introduction is clear and that there is no misunderstanding. Being clear about whether the introduction is a business or a personal one will preclude embarrassing situations where people have misaligned intentions.

11. Keep the intro concise
Like all emails (and unlike the long-winded Quora posts I might write :)), be sure to keep the email short so it can be consumed quickly. The longer the email, the longer it will take to process (and the less the likelihood it will of being read).

As an introducer, your goal should be for both parties to be glad that you made the intro. If only one party gets value from the meeting, you have failed. But when you succeed, you have the potential to massively increase the happiness of both people.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What does it take to be a senior software engineer at Facebook?

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