Business is about relationships, and relationships always begin with introductions. The formal introduction may be your first impression on potential clients or business partners, so make sure your manners are up to snuff.
The old social rules about gender and age don't apply in today's business world, says Dorothea Johnson, the founder and director of The Protocol School of Washington in Washington, DC, which offers etiquette training.
Rank is rated highest in business introductions -- present the "less important" person to the "more important" one. A key exception is in the case of clients; they're treated as more important than someone in your firm, regardless of rank, Johnson says. If you're unsure, be guided by the respective agendas of the people being introduced; treat the person with the most to gain from the contact as the "junior" person in the introduction.
Along with names, your introduction should include a brief bit of information about each individual, perhaps giving a title or recent business accomplishment. Don't mention personal issues, don't try to be humorous and never poke fun at an unusual name.
What about introducing yourself? "Never break in on two people, especially if they're in deep conversation," says Johnson. But for groups of three people or more, simply wait for a lull in their conversation, ask them if you can join in, introduce yourself and shake hands all around. "It forces everybody else to shake hands and say their name," says Johnson.