How To Introduce Yourself to Someone You’ve Never Met

introductory handshakeThis article is number 2 in the effective small business communication series.

Those first introductions can be the most difficult—and sometimes the most important.

People are making flash judgments every second. Every move you make is being scrutinized.

But with the right introduction, a good personality, and some confidence, you have the power to cement your good image in their minds and create an instant bond.

In my experience, there are two main parts to introducing yourself to someone new. The first part is starting the conversation; going from standing around awkwardly to actually interacting with them. The second part consists of what you say and how you say it.

How to start the conversation

  1. The mutual acquaintance icebreaker If your soon-to-be friend happens to be talking with or know someone that you know, it can be a great way to leverage yourself into a conversation. If they’re talking to that person, it’s really easy to just walk up and say hi to your friend, and an introduction follows very naturally. If not, you can just confirm there name “Dave Moneyfountain?” and mention your aquaintance “I know Mark ReallyReputableGuy, he’s mentioned you a few times.” Then you can launch into a discussion from there.
  2. The compliment icebreaker Giving a compliment is a frequently over-used tactic that is still used, because it can work so well. They key, of course, is sincerity. Everyone uses the “I like your watch” compliment nowadays—but since I happen to be a watch fanatic, I can start talking about automatic movements and other things that make my compliments truly sincere. Your best bet is going to be giving a compliment that you truly mean and are prepared to talk about in detail.
  3. Conversation by proximity This can be a great way to jump start a conversation, if you happen to be close to the person you want to introduce yourself to (close physically or in situation). If you do find yourself in place where this might work, just make some seemingly-intelligent or humorous remark about whatever situation you find yourself in (I do this all the time waiting in lines). A hand-shake and introduction can follow swiftly thereafter.
  4. The direct approach Once you realize that everyone else is also busy looking for excuses to come up and talk to you, this approach becomes easier. Simply stroll up with a little confidence, offer a hand-shake, and say, “Hi, Mike, I’m ________.” Alternatively, if you’re approaching a group, you can walk up and say, “Mind if I join you?” You might be amazed at this, but the direct approach works really well. People just don’t seem to say, “No, you can’t join us,” or, “Hi, actually, I’m busy and don’t want to talk with you.”

Most of these suggestions are worded for usage in a face-to-face scenario, but in reality they can apply to starting all sorts of conversations (emailing and calling were two others that came to my mind).

What to say in your first conversation

How you start your conversation will depend a lot on what you want from that relationship. If you want a personal relationship, for example, you might start with different things than if you want a business relationship. For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume your goal is to start a friendly business relationship.

Start with their name. It’s tempting to start with your own name, but if you know their name it’s a really nice touch to address them by it. Once they’ve been addressed, then you can throw your name into the mix.

Give yourself a history. If you have a mutual acquaintance, a specific reason for starting the conversation, or anything that gives credit to you, it is good to mention that early on. It lets them know you aren’t trying to waste their time. If you don’t have any back story (at a business card exchange, for example), then it’s okay to skip this step. Also, don’t speak too much on this—keep it to one or two sentences.

Ask questions about them. Ask them about what they do, what they like doing, their history. Ask anything that’s appropriate to your conversation. In general, people really enjoy talking about themselves, so the more you let them talk, the more they’re going to like you. One caveat to this, however; don’t subject them to a rapid-fire interrogation! Ask slow, thoughtful questions, and then give them a chance to talk for a while. A little down-time can actually be a good thing for a conversation.

Listen carefully, and respond. You may have noticed that the best conversationalists remember all sorts of little details about you and bring them up when the time is right. Your goal in asking questions isn’t just to make them feel good about themselves, but also to learn as much about them as you can. Be a good listener, and you’ll remember a whole lot more of the conversation. Once you’ve fully processed what they said (again, it’s okay to pause and think), you can respond with something thoughtful.

Answer their questions. Once they start asking you questions, it’s time to give them more information about yourself and your company. This is also when you can give them your small business’s marketing message. Be careful not to speak for too long, though, it’s never a good idea to entirely dominate the conversation.

At this point, you’ll probably have been speaking for at least a few minutes and will be well on your way to building a valuable relationship. It’s still good to remember some of the basics, though, especially about listening and paying attention to what they say. Good luck with your conversations, and feel free to start one in the comments section.

If you’re interested in more articles like this, check out some others in the Effective Small Business Communication series.

Reader Comments

Douglas Woods
Oct. 24. 2007 11:20 AM

Thanks for posting these excellent tips and advice, which I feel could be useful for anyone approaching someone for the first time. These tips would hold true not only for business meetings but also for social and personal meetings. They are great for the new businessman or employee but may also help anyone who is shy or nervous about meeting people socially.

Much appreciated

Oct. 25. 2007 3:12 AM

Hi Doug, you’re very welcome—I’m glad you enjoyed them.

Much of my earlier years were spent as a shy little kid who was afraid to just walk up to people and talk. Now, I speak on stage and introduce myself to new people as a matter of course. A lot of these insights have come from that personal journey.

Thanks for reading,

- Mason

Harrison Stubbe
Oct. 26. 2007 9:53 PM

Informative and insightful information for a subject that is rarely touched upon with in the scope of business networking.
Good advice on conversation initiation and maintenance.
Be sure to stress the hand shake - or is that article to come?
I have presented handshake classes at a large state university during corporate recruiting and I think the business community would be surprised at the ignorance regarding handshakes in the corporate world.

Oct. 26. 2007 11:21 PM

Glad you enjoyed the article, I think that based on your recommendation I actually will write a follow-up article totally around the handshake. I’m betting you’re right about how many people don’t understand it’s importance (or the best way to go about it).

Feel free to throw in some suggestions out there in the mean time.

- Mason

Oct. 29. 2007 2:24 AM

I am kind of a shy guy, so these tips will come handy for my business :)


Oct. 29. 2007 3:16 PM

Hey Flash,

I’m glad to be of service, and thanks for the comment (seriously, I love comments),

- Mason

Nov. 9. 2007 9:03 PM

One of my friends is a bit shy and doesn’t open up in a group fast enough. And because of this he is accused of being a loner and an uninteresting person, though he is a wonderful person to be with when he opens up… I wanted to help him out and came across this useful article. It was really nice… I’ve suggested him the tips you proposed… thank you…

Niv Dolgin
Nov. 28. 2007 11:34 PM

How would you recommend responding to an introduction by someone via email. Writing “Nice to meet you” in the email seems like a bad fit since we haven’t actually met (in person).

And on the flip side, how would one best introduce yourselves via email to a (otherwise) stranger)?

All of the above would be in the context of establishing a business relationship.

Dec. 4. 2007 9:14 PM

Many people have a problem dealing with the ice breaking situation when they meet a new person. i myself have gone thought this many times but have realized with time that the ice breaking situation is faced by almost everyone but they overcome it with a mind set that they have known the people long before even if they have never meet the stranger.

Dec. 1. 2009 6:15 PM

many thanks you to make this website.

Feb. 8. 2010 7:46 PM

thankuu im so shy person to meet some bodys.i hope this words making me to avoid my shy ness

Jul. 4. 2010 2:44 AM

Great article there is this person says hi to me now I can finally break the ice thanks.

Jul. 23. 2010 6:58 AM

Thank u,those words are being useful to me as im going to start a conversation with someone whom i met recently…...

Rochelle Nigri
Aug. 17. 2010 2:21 AM

Mason, you hadn’t responded to Niv’s questions submitted in 2007, I too am curious as to how would you recommend making an introduction to someone via email to a (otherwise) stranger within the context of establishing a business relationship.

Oct. 11. 2010 2:01 AM

Thanks, this artcile will come hady for my future meetings :)

Your Name
Oct. 13. 2010 10:58 PM

just starting in the world of professional interaction. This comes very handy !

john doe
Oct. 18. 2010 2:27 AM

Very useful tips, thanks a lot!

Nov. 9. 2010 8:47 AM

Many thanks to make this website

Jan. 12. 2011 7:29 AM

Hi Mason,

These are really good tips on how to start up conversations with people you don’t know. I feel so awkward sometimes in groups of people I don’t know, especially if everyone else seem to know one another. These tips will really help me by giving me a way to start up a conversation a little easier.

Your Name
Jan. 29. 2011 10:07 PM

Dear Mason,
Im starting highschool soon and am a little shy
but am prepared to make new friends i have read
your tips and have found that they are great way
to introduce myself and find friends.
- anonamous

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Apr. 12. 2011 7:26 AM

Thank You so much ! i really appriciate your Very Imp Tips which are very useful.
Thanx once again.

Apr. 19. 2011 6:28 AM

Yeah, it ‘s kind of difficult to break the ice.

Apr. 28. 2011 12:38 AM

hi i like speak english can you help me please to speak

indu bhutani
May. 9. 2011 6:51 AM

i want to speak in english but i don’t have confidence,how can i improve it

Dileep Pandey
Jun. 2. 2011 12:15 PM

hi   This is Dileep Pandey i am working in vindia it Serevices Pvt a opreation manager it is isrally best company i am 28 year old i have done my graduation form Vikramaditya University Bhopal. i have two brother my elder brother name is Pradeep Pandey he is 32 years old he is also done master degree and he has married. younger brother Name is Sandeep Pandey he is 26 years old he is also done graduation he has not married. My Father Name is Shri Hira lal Pandey He is 60 years Old He has retired from Army he is very simple person. My Mother Name is kusma Devi Pandey she is house wafe he has crossed 50 years. she is also simple nature.

Jun. 7. 2011 7:42 AM

can you please help me..
Can you give me a introduction or how i introduce my self being a first timer in college w/ the course of BSEd maj. in english…

Jun. 25. 2011 5:53 AM

My name is Vincent Beentjes, I am learning to be an Innovation Facilitator. At the moment I’m investigating the effects of coaching and management on innovation. I’m finding that communication plays a key role in both cases. Obvious as this might seem, you would be surprised how few people ask themselves ‘How can I improve my communicative skills?’. I’m trying to improve my communication skills and you’ve been a big help. I would like for you to comment on my pitch on, but I’ll understand if you don’t. Thanks for all your hard work!

Seema Verma
Jun. 28. 2011 1:04 PM

How I introduce myself being a first timer on podium in English.
Pls reply soon.

Jul. 17. 2011 5:38 AM

i want to speak in english but i don’t have confidence,how can i improve it

Software Company Ranchi
Jul. 19. 2011 4:58 AM

please guide me or suggest me when ever i face interview i feel nervous.

sugandha gupta
Jul. 30. 2011 5:42 PM

i want to speak in english with others in full confidence so how can i improve it?

english language courses
Aug. 20. 2011 3:09 PM

nice tips ... especially for us shy types!

Aug. 26. 2011 3:02 AM

thanks i was doing homework and your advice really helped me.

Your Name
Aug. 29. 2011 6:41 AM

Nice tip on how to introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met.

Aug. 30. 2011 3:59 AM

very nice tips,, helps a lot

Sep. 6. 2011 1:08 PM

Just came in a new place and had to met new people, Nice tips here, It really helped!

Mahboob Barekzai
Sep. 18. 2011 4:15 PM

It is very helpful and i really enjoy that while i was out for business….thanks man:-)

nguyen van tuan
Oct. 5. 2011 3:01 AM

it ‘s great ways to make with everyone. thank for sharing

Nov. 28. 2011 5:31 AM

I never had problems with introducing myself to unknown people. In big companies, where I don’t have acquaintance, I easily getting involve in conversation. On business meetings I think you should act this way. Otherwise you would never meet business partners.

Dec. 2. 2011 5:18 AM

how do i introducing myself to college administratin via email?

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mr.roger donkor
Feb. 8. 2012 9:31 AM

hi am from ghana and i need someone there who can introduce me into bussiness from all over the world i hope to hear from the person soon

Mar. 9. 2012 1:23 PM

hi guys , thank you for the web site it was very helpful to me
i wish all the best for you

Silvia Timoteo
Apr. 11. 2012 5:41 PM

Thank you. This was great. It will help me when I am out and about selling our companies services and when we are in BNI meetings as well!

Delicia Mendai
Apr. 18. 2012 2:36 PM

I am a very shy person….but this tipshave come in to be very handy….thnxs

TN Pas Cher
Apr. 23. 2012 3:49 AM

you. This was great. It will help me when I am out and about selling our companies services and when we are in BNI meetings a

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Jan. 25. 2013 7:13 AM

good tips, thanks

Mar. 14. 2013 6:57 PM

I had an uncle who would introduce himself by saying “I’m Vic, and I guess you know your name!” Broke the ice every time.

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