The Art of the Party Introduction

Jane, Tarzan, Jane, Tarzan…

Well, hello! There’s someone here we’ve been dying for you to meet. Rachel Fay is a UK-based professional introducer, meaning she spends her time attending parties and connecting people who should be connected. To date, she’s played hostess at more than 100 parties, making introductions for everyone from art gallery owners and captains of industry to Prince Charles and Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Royal Family’s party planner. Rachel believes that parties are one of the best ways of meeting people, yet meaningful mingling has become a lost art. We knew we couldn’t wait for an introduction to Rachel to learn more, so we boldly did the honors ourselves.

What is the role of a professional introducer?

A professional introducer attends social events to make sure that the guests are relaxed and having fun. You can’t feel comfortable and enjoy a party if you’re anxious about not knowing others in the room or how you’re going to meet people. A skilled introducer gets people mingling.

The Art of the Party Introduction with Rachel Fay

Professional introducer Rachel Fay

What makes someone a good introducer?

A good introducer is friendly and efficient. He or she will chat with someone for two minutes or so, and not much longer, in order to find what one guest has in common with other guests and to make sure any introductions he or she makes will be relevant. A good introducer is also charming and has a reassuring manner—he or she will be able to convince guests to leave the comfort zone of one conversation to join another, with a walk across a crowded room in between.

You mention that the art of introducing people has fallen by the wayside. How so?

In a bygone era, the host—or more frequently, the female host—would play the role of the introducer. In fact, she would earn her reputation as a great hostess because of her ability to introduce guests to others who could enhance or further their personal lives or careers. It might help if she was glamorous and lived in a fabulous house, but those would be nothing if she wasn’t able to introduce her guests with charm and inconspicuous efficiency. [Click here to read about the most famous salonnieres in history.]

The Art of the Party Introduction

Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, and Spencer Tracy
in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967

What advice would you give to a party host who can’t hire a professional introducer? Should he or she ask a friend to help?

In my experience, it doesn’t work very well to ask a friend to handle party introductions. Friends tend to get distracted and will end up chatting with people they feel like chatting with rather than looking after the interests of the group of guests as a whole. My advice is to delegate all other party-related tasks to other people—anyone can serve a drink!—and concentrate on the one task that you will be able to do best—making introductions!

What can party hosts do to make sure they are introducing their guests well?

The first thing is to recognize that being introduced to others will make your guests feel valued, so give it thought and effort and introduce your guests to multiple people. Know a little about each guest’s situation before the party and make judgments as to who might like to meet whom. Many introductions will be fleeting but fun, designed to entertain your guests, and may never develop beyond the confines of the party. But also look to make meaningful introductions—two people who have a mutual business interest, for example, or a guest who’d love to meet a new partner after a break-up. Such introductions can be life-changing.

What should a host keep in mind when compiling a guest list to ensure that strangers will mingle and connect?

Ideally, invite people who will enjoy each other’s company. As a rule of thumb, the more your guests have in common, the more easily they’ll mix. Of course, this isn’t always achievable, as there are often people you just have to invite. Make sure you have some guests who are good mixers, as they’ll help oil the wheels for you.

What should you do if you are at a party and really want to meet someone? Must you find someone to make the introduction?

Asking a professional introducer—if you are fortunate enough to be at a party that has one—is always best because he or she will know how to highlight the reasons why the other person should want to spend a bit of time talking to you. A good host will do this too, but many don’t know to highlight your relevant assets. If you can’t find your host, ask someone who knows your intended “target” to introduce you.

The Art of the Party Introduction

Adolph Menjou and Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory, 1933

Can’t you just introduce yourself? And, if so, what’s the best way to do that?

The issue is that it’s not possible to introduce yourself to another person effectively because you cannot brag about your achievements without being seen as a show-off, whereas an introducer can sing your praises and inspire others to want to learn more about you. But if you can’t find someone to introduce you, you can chance it by introducing yourself and hoping you strike the right note. Just say your name and why you want to meet.

How should party guests who are looking to meet new people make the most of their time at a social gathering?

For one thing, don’t hang around in a conversation that doesn’t interest you—it probably doesn’t interest the other person either.

Are there any red-flag topics that you believe should not be discussed at a party?

Not in my book. Just keep it appropriate to the occasion and don’t cause offense. It’s a party, and everyone deserves to have an enjoyable time, not just you.

What is the best way to disengage from an uncomfortable or uninteresting conversation?

Ask the guest with whom you’re speaking, “Do you know any of the other guests?” If the response is yes, ask, “Would you be kind enough to introduce me?” That will extricate you from the conversation and create a new conversation for you as well. A party with a great social buzz is created when all guests are introducing each other to the people they know in a wonderful virtual circle! If the guest from whom you want to disengage doesn’t know anyone and you don’t know anyone to introduce him or her to, then you can simply say, “Let’s go and say hello to those people over there.”

The Art of the Party Introduction

A party scene from Dinner at Eight, 1933

How can a party host “conduct the symphony” effectively and encourage guests to mingle well?

A host can only conduct the players (guests) by focusing solely on conducting. He or she does this by discreetly introducing guests to other guests at appropriate moments, bringing in new voices if he or she sees a conversation lagging, and pulling people out of conversations if they aren’t in tune. Guests should trust the host to create the best possible social occasion, just as the players in an orchestra trust their conductor. If the host wants to introduce you to someone and if he or she is a good host, there’ll be a good reason!

Once a meaningful connection has been made, what are the best ways for guests to follow up with each other? Does a host have a role here?

Follow up in the way that’s most appropriate to the situation. This is usually best dealt with by asking the other person the best way to get in contact. I believe a good guest doesn’t give the host more work to do. That said, a host will usually be flattered to know that two of her guests want to see each other again, so if you didn’t get contact details on the spot, ask the host for them at a later time. In some cases, it’s more appropriate for the host to act as the go-between.

Click here to read how to kick-start a conversation with shy party guests, here for the 10 secrets to engaging in great conversation, and here to learn more about Rachel Fay.

The Art of the Introduction

Welcome Photo and Quote Mashup

Welcome Photo: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
Welcome Quote: Tarzan, the Ape Man, 1932

Click here to read about Jenna Gallagher, the author of this story.

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