This topic is a touchy one with me so I'll tread lightly and just list my rules with minimal commentary. The title, in my opinion, speaks for itself.
12 rules for introductions
1. Both parties need to benefit from the introduction. Occasional exceptions can be made for my children, clients, friends and those that have proven their loyalty. Know and explain why the introduction makes sense.
2. If I make an introduction, follow up respectfully and professionally. I once agreed to talk to a company founder (an unwanted introduction on my end) who needed money and then stood me up for two phone calls. Then she wanted me to help her and make other introductions (as someone who is rude and irresponsible?). Impressions count for a lot.
3. When I tell you that making too many introduction to a certain in demand person will impact my relationship with that person so the introduction better be crucial to you – and you have me make the introduction – don't ask for too many favors shortly thereafter (you're willing to risk my career for yours so I won't be as kindly disposed going forward).
4. Don't ask me to make introductions for someone you barely know... unless it's Barack Obama. Relationships can be lost based on credibility and judgment. What if they aren't that great? How do you know that they are if you barely know them.
5. My Linkedin and Facebook contacts aren't your personal calling list. Nor is my less public rolodex. See number one above.
6. Yes, many people want to meet the same high profile people. If you've asked me to introduce you to a VC, CEO or other influential person you can assume that you aren't the first. Give me a real reason why the introduction makes sense.
7. Reciprocate and make introductions for me as well.
8. Don't ask for an introduction too often. I'm busy.
9. If I make an introduction please don't use my name if I didn't tell you to do so. Don't misquote me or put words in my mouth.
10. I cold call; some of my contacts were established this way. I meet people at conferences, in elevators and at yoga. Introductions have their place but I also believe that oftentimes making the effort is a better way to establish a relationship than an introduction. In the latter, what the mutual acquaintance says on the phone can sway the reception but too often the attempt falls flat. Explain (to me) why the introduction makes sense so I can introduce you with confidence.
11. If someone I introduce you to doesn't respond feel free to tell me once and then drop it (with me). If they want to respond at some point they will.
12. Ask nicely. Say thank you.
Megan Lisa Jones is an investment banker who works primarily with companies in the digital media, technology, gaming and other emerging industries. Her experience includes time with Lazard Freres, Needham & Company and Merrill Lynch. Her investment banking blog is at www.ibla.us; and she released a novel, Captive, in late 2010 (www.meganlisajones.com). This was also published on her blog.