Handshakes & Introductions

By Jill Bremer, AICI CIP


Handshakes are the only consistent physical contact we have in the business world. They also happen first in an encounter, so they set the tone for the entire relationship that follows. People make an immediate judgment about your character and level of confidence through your handshake. So take time to practice your handshake skills until you know you can perform them well.

Offer your entire hand, moving into your partner’s until “web meets web” (the area between the thumb and forefinger). Grasp firmly, shake gently for 3-4 seconds (no pumping!) and then release. Don’t forget to make eye contact and add a smile. Be ready to offer your full name, even if you’ve met before. Don’t assume casual acquaintances will remember you, so give your name quickly and remind them where you met.

Practice with someone and ask for his or her honest feedback. At all costs, avoid the “wet noodle”, “bone-crusher”, “fingers only” and two-handed shakes. They convey nothing but negative messages to others.

When do you shake hands? Whenever you’re introduced to someone, when someone enters your office from the outside, when you leave an event attended by people from the outside, and when you run into someone outside your office. A good rule of thumb – if you shook hands at the beginning, you should also shake when you say goodbye.


There are two kinds of introductions: self-introductions and three-party introductions.

When do you introduce yourself? When you recognize someone and he or she doesn’t recognize you, whenever you’re seated next to someone you don’t know, when the introducer doesn’t remember your name, and when you’re the friend of a friend. Extend your hand, offer your first and last names and share something about yourself or the event you’re attending.

Tip: In a self-introduction, never give yourself an honorific such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.

In a three-person introduction, your role is to introduce two people to each other. In a business or business/social situation, one must take into consideration the rank of the people involved in order to show appropriate deference. Simply say first the name of the person who should be shown the greatest respect. And remember, gender doesn’t count in the business world; protocol is based upon rank. Senior employees outrank junior employees, customers or clients outrank every employee (even the CEO), and officials (Mayor, Senator, etc.) outrank non-officials.

Begin with the superior’s name, add the introduction phrase, say the other person’s name and add some information about the second person. Then reverse the introduction by saying the second’s name, followed by the introduction phrase and the superior’s name and information. When a three-party intro is done correctly, the two people being introduced should be able to start some small talk based upon what you shared about each of them. Introductions should match, so if you know the first and last names of both people, say both. If you know only the first name of one person, say only the first names of both. If you add an honorific for one person, the other should also have one.


“Mr. Brown, I’d like to introduce Ms. Ann Smith, who started yesterday in the mailroom. Ann, this is Douglas Brown, our CEO.”

(Ann would be wise to call the CEO “Mr. Brown” right away and not assume she may call him by his first name. Always use the last names of superiors and clients until you are invited to do otherwise.)

“Pete, I’d like to introduce to you Doug Brown, our CEO. Doug, I’d like you to meet, Pete Johnson, who’s considering our firm for his ad campaign.”

Tip: Don’t say “I’d like to introduce you to..”, but rather “I’d like to introduce to you…”

Tip: Always stand for an introduction.

Social skills are important prerequisites to succeeding in business. Knowing how to shake hands and handle introductions can set you apart from the competition, convey confidence and project a professional image. Practice these simple skills and you will reap the benefits!

© 2017 Jill Bremer All Rights Reserved