I have attended many meetings and networking events. From small gatherings to large assemblies, they all have one thing in common. At some point, all participants have to introduce themselves.
Whether you are meeting one person or a group of people, introductions are part of the professional world. It is also a potential lost opportunity.
At a recent event, each person at the table introduced him/herself to everyone. We were instructed to give our names, our professions (name and company), our hobby and reason for attending the meeting. When my turn arrived, I looked to the group and said, “Hi – it’s great to meet all of you. I’m Christine. I’m a writer – I have a blog and am currently working on my first book. I am also a business owner and am currently working on a new product. One of my hobbies is pole fitness and I’m really excited to hear what the speaker has to say about brand building.”
It took me less than 20 seconds. With the exception of the person who didn’t get to introduce himself because we ran out of time, I had the shortest introduction. Most of my tablemates spoke for at least a minute and strayed off topic. Highlights included:
- Telling everyone about your company (rather than you) in great detail
- Selling your company’s services during your introduction
- Mentioning that you are looking for a new opportunity and telling your entire story
- Sharing your intestinal problems
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident – I’ve attended other events and experienced disturbingly similar introductions. It seems as though we have lost the ability to introduce ourselves in a way that makes someone remember, and want to learn more about, us.
So, how do you introduce yourself in a way that grabs and holds someone’s attention in a world where we are constantly being bombarded by information? You give them enough information to remember you and leave them wanting more. Here are a few tips:
- Keep it simple. In my “elevator pitch”, I stated who I am, what I do, my hobby and what I hoped to learn from the speaker. It took less than 30 seconds and invited follow up questions, such as, what is your book about? What is the name of your blog?
- Keep it short. Stay within the time limit (if there is one), otherwise, aim for 10-30 seconds, depending on the situation. You won’t keep anyone’s interest if you go much longer. Plus, if you offer all information up front, there’s no need for someone to ask you a follow up question and you lose a potential opportunity.
- This does not mean you should rehearse until you sound “canned”. Instead, make a few notes and run through your pitch a few times to prepare yourself. That way, you’re not stumbling over your words, which wastes time and does not make you memorable (at least not in a good way).
- Keep it on topic. Consider your audience and adjust your personal content accordingly. Outside of a medical conference, nobody needs to hear about your intestinal distress (especially at lunch)!
Successful introductions lead to great follow up questions. And on that subject, one last tip: at an event where you introduce yourself to a group, don’t pass your business cards around the table, and don’t leave them at empty seats before the event. Build a relationship first. Then ask for a card (or give one to someone who asks you).