Meeting new business contacts (introduction)

two business people shaking hands
Nice to meet you!

By Robert Dennis, Big Business English

Of course you know how to say “Hello!” in English! It’s the first thing you learn, isn’t it? But making a good impression when you meet a new contact or colleague is not as simple as it seems. In this article, I will give you some tips on making initial contact with people in English in a highly effective way.

Visual communication

OK, so the first thing to remember – even before you open your mouth to speak – is that about 70% of human communication is visual, not verbal. So, it’s really important to look great. (I live in Italy – and looking as fantastic as Italians can be a real challenge for an Englishman!) Make sure you smile. Maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to. (In some cultures, this is considered rude, but in the Anglo-Saxon world, it’s essential.) And, have a good, firm handshake. Another tip for meeting people from English-speaking countries is be aware of how close you stand to the other person. Remember that Britons and Americans tend to stand further apart than people from Southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Hello / Hi / How do you do?

There are actually lots of different ways to say “Hello!” (including… “Hello!”).

Depending on the level of formality (or informality) you can use Hello!, which is fairly neutral. Or you can say “Hi!” which is more informal. There is also “How do you do?”, which is really quite formal and almost exclusively British. You won’t hear many Americans or Australians using “How do you do?”.

But, be careful! Because although “How do you do?” is a question form, it’s not actually a question at all. In fact, the correct response to “How do you do?” is… “How do you do?” (!)

                Mary Baxter: How do you do?

                Raj Agarwal: How do you do?

Don’t reply to “How do you do?” with “I’m fine, thanks”. Only reply this way if the other person asks you “How are you?”

John Lee: How are you?

Ahmed Khan: Fine, thanks, John. How are you?

John Lee: Not bad, thanks.

In this dialogue, John and Ahmed have already met before. (John’s reply “not bad” is typical British English.)

When you meet someone, it’s a good idea to tell them that it’s a pleasant experience, too. We use a variety of expressions here, but they all mean about the same thing:

It’s nice / good / great to meet you!

I’m pleased / delighted to meet you!

It’s a real pleasure to meet you!

Saying your name,  job title and company

And, of course, you want to tell the other person your name – and find out their name:

Sven Olsson: How do you do? I’m Sven Olsson.

Claude Dubois: Oh, how do you do? I’m Claude Dubois. Delighted to meet you!

Sven Olsson: It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Claude.

It’s a good idea to combine this with your job title or the name of your company. (Don’t make the other person guess who are.)

Karen Smedley: Hi! I’m Karen Smedley from Consolidated Universal plc.

Rohit Singh: Hi, Karen! Rohit Singh, General Manager at MHW Chemicals. Nice to meet you.

Karen Smedley: Great to met you, too, Rohit!

So, there you are! You now know how to meet someone in English and make a great first impression. Of course, you need to do the rest of the conversation and go beyond just saying “Hello!”. We’ll continue to look at this in the next article on Big Business English!

STUDY TIP: Read this article several times and practise saying the dialogues out loud. If you’ve got a friend or colleague you can practise with, that will make it much more effective. Memorise the key expressions – and use them!

© Robert Dennis, Big Business English, 2018

Coming soon: Talking about yourself and your job when you meet someone for the first time