Always Double Opt-In Introductions

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Always double opt-in your introductions.

In other words, never introduce two people to each other without checking with both people first that they want to be introduced.

Good introductions benefit everybody involved. The two parties who are introduced to each other gain by meeting each other (assuming they want to meet), you gain by being helpful to the person being introduced, and you gain by introducing the other person to an interesting and helpful contact.

But when you don't check with both people first if they want to be introduced, you risk flipping this on its head. You risk making an introduction that makes everybody worse off. You waste the time of a valued contact, you make the person you're trying to introduce look bad, and you make yourself look bad.

Think of it this way:

You're a busy person who values their time, their reputation, and their headspace. Maybe you're the CEO of a growing company, or an author who is about to go on a book tour, or you're just a busy SVP at a company and you value your extra time you get to spend with your family. You're not a jerk -- you'll meet with people when it makes sense -- but you need to prioritize your time and your calendar.

Suddenly, you get a new email in your inbox from a friend. It looks like this:

Hey there,

I want to introduce you to John. John's an up-and-coming young professional nearby and I thought you two could get a lot out of chatting. Hope you get a chance to connect!

Your friend

Now you not only have all the work you needed to do today, but you also have to respond to this introduction or else you feel like a jerk to your friend and the young professional CC'd on the email.

You probably tell yourself, "I'll get to it later." Since you're busy, later never comes.

This introduction put more work on your already-full plate, was unexpected, and imposes an awkward social dynamic on you.

Even worse, I had a private client tell me today that somebody he hasn't talked to in seven years introduced him to another person without doing a double opt-in. He thought this was incredibly rude and had no clue if he'd have time to talk to the person he was introduced to. Everybody in that interaction is worse off than if the person making the introduction had checked first.

Making an introduction without a double opt-in is like a friend crashing your time at the coffeeshop while you're doing something else, distracting you from your work, and then expecting you to pay for his coffee.

Even if you like the friend, you're going to think he's a jerk. And you're going to resist the idea of meeting with the person he's introducing you to because you never agreed to the introduction.

Don't be a jerk when making introductions.

Do a Double Opt-In

Before making an introduction, check with the other party first to see that they want the introduction.

This doesn't have to be complicated. Here's what I do:

  1. If a friend or contact asks for an introduction (or I volunteer one) and I feel comfortable making it, I tell them, "Sure, just let me check with [the other party] first to make sure they can take the introduction."
  2. I ask the first person to send me a blurb I can send along to the other person so that I accurately represent the first person. This can be simple, like, "Hey [Name], Can you send me a quick blurb I can pass along to [other party] to see if they can take the introduction? Thanks!"
  3. I send this blurb with a message to the other person, usually with a subject line like, "Intro to [first person]?"
  4. This email is simple, it just say, "Hello [other party], [First person] is [way I know them, i.e., friend, contact, colleague]. They saw we're connected/I thought it might make sense for you to speak. Would you like the intro? Here's a little more about them: [Blurb]"

Most of the time, people say "sure, send them along." Sometimes people are too busy to take an intro and politely decline, in which case I just tell the first person the second person was too busy and can't take the introduction.

Regardless, nobody looks like a massive jerk in this scenario. The double opt-in introduction works. People appreciate it. Use it.

Do Introductions Right

Here are a few articles and posts about making and getting introductions.

My friend and colleague Danielle Strachman has two good posts on introductions here and here.

Fred Wilson has a good post on double opt-ins here.

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I'm Zak. School should have taught you how to succeed at work and build a great career. Instead, it taught you that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Thankfully, I teach what school never taught.

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