How comfortable are you at introducing yourself to those outside your immediate sphere of influence? Many, if not most, are not. If that’s you, Money magazine offers five excellent ways to take the complexity – and awkwardness – out of it. “The key?” asks author Caroline Ceniza-Levine of 5 No-Fail Ways to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event, “To be brief, but also leave enough information that you pique the listener’s interest.”
- Bond Over a Shared Experience
“If you’re at a wedding, open with how you know the couple. If you’re at a conference, open with your affiliation to the organizer or your interest in the topic. If it’s a company mixer, mention your role, department or years at the company. From this shared experience, you can share parts of your background that build from there. But you have already built rapport by starting with what you have in common. This is great for a career changer who may not want to associate himself with the role or company he currently has.”
- Tell a Client Story
“Instead of just listing your title and company, talk about who you serve: ‘I’m an accountant with We Love Taxes. I prepare taxes for retail companies, mom and pop businesses, circus performers….’ The more specific the better. You can also drill down to one specific story: ‘I am currently working with a retail store owner who came to us with a laundry bag full of receipts, invoices and other papers, and I created an electronic system that can now be accessed on her phone.’ The client story is particularly useful if you’re a business owner and want to leave your listener with a clear idea of your value but without a sales pitch.”
- Give a Before and After
“That anecdote of going from a laundry bag full of papers to a streamlined system is not just a client story, but also a before/after story. The before/after can be a client’s result but it can also be what you have brought to your role or department: ‘I manage logistics for We Love Mail. The company used to spend over $1 million on shipping costs, and my group figured out how to cut that cost in half.’ A before/after structure is accessible because it’s visual, and the conversational structure prevents too much business jargon from creeping in. Creating a before/after pitch also forces you to identify and specify the value you bring.”
- Focus on your Expertise
“This is the most traditional pitch in that you summarize the arc of your career—industry specialty, years’ experience, and/or role: ‘I’ve been in marketing most of my career—consumer products, luxury, and now retail—specializing in social media…’ This is a dependable way of introducing yourself, and if you keep it concise, you’ll share a rich amount of information. One drawback is that many people use this pitch, so you risk getting forgotten, especially at a crowded event like a conference where introductions stack up. To be more memorable, that same marketer could have made the pitch more specific… ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. I build a community for book lovers to discover our store online.’ Or the marketer could have tried to incorporate the before/after as well: ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. We had a pretty dormant Facebook page three years ago when I started so I put us on YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook and now we a third of our customers hear about us first online.'”
- Get Personal
“Most pitches rightly include professional history or accomplishments because people expect this. But an introduction is really about the start of a relationship. The professional sharing could come after. You might try sharing something personal first—where you grew up, a cherished hobby, a side project you’re currently working on. If the personal nuggets engenders a genuine rapport and a chance to talk again later then it’s a good pitch to use. You might combine it with the shared experience: ‘I’m a friend of the bride. We went to school together—elementary actually. I grew up in St. Louis and didn’t come to NYC till well after college…'”
So go, experiment. Mix and match. Watch and listen how what you say engages others – does their affect remain pretty flat or do they perk up and engage back? Based on that, vary your ‘what’ and ‘how’ the next time. And the time after that, etc.
Remember, an introduction is really about the start of a relationship – not about trying to complete an entire entire relationship in 30-some-odd-seconds.
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