More of a listener than a reader? Good news! This content is also available in audio format on episode 109 of the TalentGrow Show podcast, so take a listen there!
I was guilty. I admit it.
I used to throw around ‘hot potato’ intros left and right.
I was unaware that I was committing a faux-pas.
Until I learned about the 'double opt-in' introduction, that is, and reformed my wayward ways.
What about you – are you guilty of the networking sin of the ‘hot potato’ intro?
What is the purpose of networking introductions?
Let’s pause for a second to reflect on why we make introductions in the first place.
We do it as a way to GIVE value to the others. We are trying to be generous with those in our network by providing them with a new connection that we think will add value to their lives and work.
(Read more about how to build great business relationships by being a Giver.)
So if the purpose of any networking introduction is to give value, then we have to ensure that it is done in a way that only adds value, and does not diminish any value.
In this post, I’m making the case that the hot potato introduction can potentially diminish value, while the double opt-in guarantees value creation.
What is a ‘hot potato’ intro?
I’m so glad you asked. Because back when I used to do it, I didn’t know it was wrong. It was just how everyone did it, so was all I knew.
In fact, I had to invent a name for it (yep, that’s my term there, ‘hot potato’ intro) because for so many people, it’s not even a ‘thing’. They do it unconsciously.
I am hoping to put an end to that by bringing awareness to as many people as possible about the problem with the ‘hot potato’ intro, and by showing you the much better way of Double Opt-in introductions.
‘Hot Potato’ Intro (n): An introduction of two third parties to each other with no warning to or preparation of one or both.
‘Hot potato’ intro example:
[Email to Juan and Sue:]
“Hi Juan and Sue,
I wanted to introduce you to each other. I hope the connection is fruitful.
[Optional: May sometimes include a reason for the connection – which makes this less terrible, but still wrong.]
All the best,
What’s wrong with this intro?
“But Halelly, that’s how everyone does this. What’s the matter with it?”
First off, don’t let me quote your mother (“If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it?”)…
Let me break it down and show you why, even though everyone else does it, and even though you don’t mean to create any trouble by it, the ‘Hot Potato intro’ is still no good.
It catches people off guard and does not allow them to have a say in the matter. You are putting people on the spot by creating an ‘opportunity’ for them which they didn’t ask for IN FRONT of the other person, instead of offering it up privately. That means that if they’re not so interested, they can’t tell you without looking like a jerk.
It doesn’t honor people’s wishes or time/availability constraints. Sometimes, a connection seems like a good idea to you but not to one or more of the other people involved. Or it’s not a good time for them to follow through – they’re slammed with a big project deadline, or they’re going through some personal issues, or what not. Or they’re not that interested in the other person and the introduction, but you made it anyway, without asking them for their wishes.
It creates more work for others, and no one needs more to-do’s than they already have. They were humming along, minding their own business, when all-of-a-sudden, out-of-the-blue, into their inbox lands your ‘hot potato’ introduction creating the burden of follow up for them. A new to-do item – yay hurray! <insert sarcastic eyeroll> This one is ESPECIALLY true if you did not explain specifically WHY you are making the introduction and WHAT’S IN IT for each of the introduced parties. And you wouldn’t believe how frequently I get these kinds of ‘hot potato’ guessing game intros. I find those to be the worst type.
Let’s agree to put a stop to the hot potato intro, okay?
Enter the ‘Double Opt-in' intro
No more Hot Potato introductions! Use Double Opt-in intros to add value and earn instant networking cred.
‘Double Opt-in’ Intro (n): An introduction of two third parties to each other after first obtaining prior approval from each one, separately.
How to make a proper double opt-in networking introduction in 6 easy steps
Now that you can’t plead ignorance anymore (my first goal was awareness, as I mentioned), I implore you: please don’t do the ‘hot potato’ intro ever again. So that you can’t plead incompetence, let me give you a step by step guide for how to make proper, double-opt-in, upgraded introductions.
Who: Think of two people in your network that don’t know each other, but ought to.
Why: Think of the specific, win-win reasons why you believe it’s in their mutual benefit to meet. After all, good networking relationships are always mutually-beneficial (check out my blog post about this).
Preempt: Send each person a separate, individual email (or call them, or ask them in person) explaining that you’d like to introduce them to so-and-so for reasons X, Y, and Z (i.e., describe the thinking you did in step 2 above). Ask them whether they would be interested in an introduction.
Wait for OK: Wait for BOTH of the people to give you the go-ahead.
Make intro: Once (and only if) both parties separately agree, write them a short email (addressed to both) reminding them of/thanking them for their agreement and the high-level reason for the introduction. Then tell them you wish them ‘happy connecting’ and that you’ll step out of the middle as they proceed independently to connect.
Earn instant networking cred. Collect 'bonus points' from each of these connections in your long-term win-win relationships. (Note: these are metaphoric bonus points, y’all, so don’t get all literal on me.) Why?
a. You gave them each a legitimately-beneficial new connection.
b. You showed them utmost respect for their time and wishes by first checking with them before hoisting a hot potato in their direction. You avoided catching them off-guard, overwhelming them with more (potentially unwanted) to-do’s, and giving them a cryptic introduction to someone they don’t know if they really want to meet or understand why.
Double opt-in introduction example:
At a professional event, you meet Sue. After talking a while, you realize that she might have some interests in common with your colleague Juan. You say to her:
“Hey, there’s this guy I know that I would like to introduce to you. His name is Juan and he is also really into XYZ. I think you two might enjoy connecting and supporting each other. Would you be interested in an introduction?
[Wait for agreement]
Yes? Great! I’ll check with him first, of course, and if he’s game, I can definitely introduce the two of you!”
[Email to Juan (only):]
Hope everything is well with you!
I’d like to introduce you to my new colleague, Sue. Sue is really smart and kind and an expert in XYZ, so I thought you two might find it beneficial to meet and support each other. I wanted to check with you first before making the introduction – I know how busy you are. What do you say – may I introduce you?
Let me know, either way.
All the best,
[Wait for approval from Juan.]
[One received OK from Juan, email to both Juan and Sue together:]
“Hi Juan and Sue,
As I mentioned to each of you previously, I thought you’d enjoy meeting each other because you’re both really interested in XYZ. [Add any details about the relevant bragging points about each of them or other mutual interests.]
Enjoy connecting! No need to keep me in the middle, but let me know how it goes!
All the best,
So – it’s a tiny bit more work then just hoisting the ‘hot potato’ intro, granted. But I hope you can see how the value and benefits for all three of you are clearly greater in the long run. It’s really worth it. I hope you’ll give it a try and become a convert to the ‘double opt-in’ introduction way of networking forever.
Many of us commit the networking sin of making ‘hot potato’ intros.
We are usually unaware that this is a sin.
Now that you’re aware, you should seek to add value with double opt-in intros instead.
There are six simple steps to follow to make ‘double opt-in’ introductions and upgrade your networking game forever. Plus, earn networking cred and bonus points from your peeps.
So, what do you think? Have you ever received a ‘hot potato’ intro and felt trapped by the circumstances or peeved at having to now follow up without full awareness of the benefit to you? Have you ever heard of the ‘double opt-in’ introduction and/or tried it? What’s been your experience with it? If not, do you think you’ll give it a try and become a convert like me? Chime in below in the comments (no, you don’t need to answer ALL of these questions – I just wanted to give you some prompts to help you get going 😉 ). I’d love to know your thoughts!
Sign up to my free weekly newsletter and get more actionable tips and ideas for making yourself a better leader and a more effective communicator! It’s very short and relevant with quick tips, links, and news about leadership, communication, and self-development. Sign up now!