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Today, my manager introduced me to an employee who's visiting us from a different geographical location. The person is visiting our office for 2 weeks. I don't know anything about him and I don't have any working relationship with him either. When introduced to a colleague you have never worked with, what sort of information is relevant?

In this specific case, my manager introduced the colleague as follows:

Manager : This is Mr. X visiting us from UK regarding project-Z.

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    Hello and welcome to The Workplace! I made a significant edit to your question to try to clear up what you are asking and get you better answers, but please feel free to rollback or add more relevant information if you think it's needed to get you an answer that will help. Thanks for the question! – jmac Oct 29 '13 at 23:28
  • I also think it would help to go into more detail on what you mean by relevant, just to help clarify, but it may not be required. Hope this helps! – jmort253 Oct 30 '13 at 0:51
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Executive Summary

At the minimum you always want to give the other person your name. As long as you do that, you haven't made a horrible mistake. If you feel that you want to say more, I would recommend considering:

  1. Your body language
  2. How they were introduced to you
  3. Whether there are any connections/common ground

Body Language

A large part of how we communicate is through body language and expression. No matter what you say, if your hold your shoulders in, head down, and speak softly, chances are that the person will feel you don't want to talk to them. Regardless of how short or simple your response is, try your best to smile, look at them, and stand up straight. This will make you seem more 'open' and easy to approach.

How they were introduced

In this case your manager introduced the person with:

  1. Their name
  2. Where they are from
  3. The project they are working on

So as a bare minimum you could say something like:

Nice to meet you Mr. X. My name is User from Planet Mars. I'm working on Project A.

Mirroring the information provided to you will rarely be a wrong choice. If you happen to be from the location of the office, you can give other relevant information of a similar nature, for instance.

Nice to meet you Mr. X. My name is User and I work for Mr. Manager. I'm working on Project A.

Common Ground

If you have any common ground, it usually makes people feel comfortable/makes you seem more friendly if you talk about that common ground. Here are some examples:

You've visited the UK Office Before

Nice to meet you Mr. X. My name is User, I'm working on Project A. I visited the UK office last year to work with Mr. Y, have you met him before?

You are working on the same project

Nice to meet you Mr. X. My name is User, and I'm also working on Project Z, creating widget B in team C. I look forward to working with you while you're here.

Your friend is working on the same project

Nice to meet you Mr. X. My name is User, and I'm working on Project A. My friend is working on project Z too, her name is Alice -- have you met her yet?

There are plenty of ways you may share some common ground. These are just examples, but the general idea is to bring up something that gives the other person the option of continuing the conversation with.

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While you are meeting a stranger, the reality here is that this is a fellow employee of the same company and that makes things a bit different to my mind. What you could discuss would be:

  • How long has this person worked at the company?
  • What is their experience of the company from their perspective?
  • How are they enjoying this new location?
  • How was the trip getting here from your home?
  • Are there any special places you plan on visit in your time here?

The key here is to use what bits you do have along with what would seem reasonable to ask, at least that is how I see this. Asking the person about their background in terms of how long they have worked for this company and what kinds of experiences they have are very reasonable questions that may not apply in other circumstances, e.g. if you meet a stranger in a bar these ideas aren't applicable. The location point can be a bit of an icebreaker as well as letting it be vague enough that many different areas could be used in an answer,e.g. changes in weather, time zone differences, culture, etc.

Another point here is how long of a conversation is expected. If the manager is doing general introductions, then spending only 1-2 minutes may well be the right amount of time to converse. On the other hand, if something longer is needed then consider some open-ended questions that may help in general socializing.

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