The last time I wish someone had introduced me was at a reception at a prestigious national institution.
Not long after I had arrived, while acclimatising myself with the environment and other guests, I stumbled across a journalist from an influential UK publication. I was aware that one article in their publication, describing myself as a Professional introducer could take years off my marketing endeavours and catapult me into the public eye.
Here, face-to-face, and unexpectedly, was someone who could help me achieve this. If not directly, then indirectly, through his work colleagues. The crucial point here is that it was unexpected and therefore I was unprepared. Had I had prior sight of the guest list (which, when I'm working as an Introducer I often do) I'd have done my homework.
My mind whirred: what's the best angle to describe my service that might interest a) a journalist b) this particular journalist c) his editor and d) the publication's readers? This is a tall order to assess in a few seconds.
Not only that, but the context of the event has to be taken into account. What is appropriate? It wasn't a quick-fire daytime business event with a specific business agenda. It was an evening reception for members of a subscription organisation. I had to assess the balance between business and social. There always is a balance, in varying proportions. In this instance, the tone was social and relaxed, the conversations not about efficiency of purpose, but about taking pleasure in conversing with those present and being members of the same organisation and getting to know each other.
With the journalist standing in front of me I begin to be afraid. I am afraid of messing up. I am afraid of not saying the right thing, or not saying it succinctly enough.. He is talking - thank goodness - but I am preparing to speak. This is a difficult task - to listen and to prepare to speak, as I know I must, though I would much rather stand there and let him talk so that I don't run the risk of messing up.
A break in his speaking is coming. I know here's my opportunity - a real live journalist from a national newspaper. There are no distractions: the other person who he was talking to has drifted off and he doesn't have a deadline at this moment. He is in relaxed chat mode. I have his full attention . . . I must speak.
My mind flails around to succinctly describe what I do. My mind alights on a phrase developed from advice given to me by a journalist I met by chance a few months previously: 'journalists love stories about being the first person to do something, so tell them that if you are ever interviewed by one'.
Remembering this advice, I say:
'I'm the UK's First on-the-spot Introducer at Events'.
As soon as it's out of my mouth, I know I've messed up. Wrong tone. Wrong context. Inappropriate.
I mess up because I get the tone and the content of what I say wrong. The tone of the event, as I said, is relaxed and social, therefore my tone should be in keeping with the event. It's not appropriate to be self-promoting at this event. In fact, it's rarely appropriate to be self-promoting in person, though times have changed quite dramatically on this one.
Whilst being the UK's first on-the-spot introducer at events is true to the best of my knowledge and it appears to do the trick when I'm being promoted by others, or as a catchy title in the subject line of an email and it might give him a scoop, it's a social faux pas in this context. It has the opposite of it's desired effect, which is to turn him off, not on. Way too pushy.
His eyes do not light up, he expresses no further interest, my dreams of an article appearing in the national press are dashed before I can expand. He excuses himself and walks away.
Now consider this. If someone had introduced me (properly, with care and attention), he would not have made his excuses and left. There would have been no devils in my throat, making me in turn unable to speak and then to push this faux pas out of my mouth.
Instead, the Introducer would calmly have said something like this:
'This is Rachel, she'd got a new business idea. In fact I believe it's the first of its' kind and I'm quite taken by it.'
An experienced Introducer might even pause at this point to stimulate his interest before continuing with:
'I think she's really hit on something here. She introduces you to anyone in the room you want to meet. Would it make an article that your reader's would find interesting?'
An Introducer would have told him in a few easy sentences the only things he needed to know. An Introducer would have have known what I could offer him and what he could offer me. An Introducer would have saved from my own embarrassment and from flailing about for the the right words, and from making a faux pas at a critical moment, and from wondering when to tell him what I do and how to tell him. It would just be done.
This is the work of an Introducer.
Part of my work is explaining it to those who've never experienced being properly introduced and how it helps all those present. I guess this will continue until everyone knows what an Introducer does, until everyone walks into a social or business event and asks 'Where is the Introducer?' And if there isn't one, demands 'Why not?
Rachel Fay is a Professional Introducer. For more information please visit www.rachelfay.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org