When introducing yourself to someone, what you say and how you say it can shape and set the tone for the relationship. You control the message and first impression, which is important as it can become the sound bite that your new acquaintance uses to introduce you to others (especially if you meet at an event or when networking).
As such, choose wisely what to communicate! Your message and manner can affect a variety of business situations, including meetings with clients, vendors, internal teams or management, as well as presentations, networking events and interviews.
While seemingly brief and inconsequential, effectively introducing yourself is essential at every career level -- it reflects your personal brand. And yet, many professionals (including those in the C-suite) still miss the mark when meeting others and making that critical first impression. Here are some of the introduction mistakes we see all too often when consulting with our clients -- in other words, how not to introduce yourself!
There’s nothing wrong with introducing yourself as name, position and employer, but stopping there falls short. Adding a bit more color to your name, rank and serial number can enrich and inform your conversation. Consider the following introductions:
Compared to the first one, with just a few additional words (and a few seconds to say them), the other versions provide a lot more information to steer follow-up dialogue.
Even if you work for a well-known organization, indicating your division, department, functional area, geographic responsibility, specialization etc. is more helpful than, “Hi, I’m Chris Jones, a Senior Vice President at Consumer Products Company.” Depending on the context, you might start with less and add more details in the natural flow of a conversation. By the end of the exchange, at minimum, both parties should have a clear topline understanding of who the other is and what they do.
An “elevator pitch” is an outdated concept. Effective networking is about building relationships, not brokering transactions. True, the connections you make may bear quid pro quo agreements, client referrals, sales etc. eventually, but introducing yourself for an immediate opportunity to sell -- before any attempt to get to know the person/group with whom you’re meeting -- can lead a conversation to a quick ending.
A strategic and personable introduction can lead to a solid professional relationship. Presented as a pitch, however, it may end up as your first and last conversation with someone because it's off-putting. (It may also dissuade them from introducing you to others, so you won’t also “sell” to their contacts.)
🎞 Watch Alyssa Gelbard, Founder & CEO of Point Road Group, discuss how to introduce yourself effectively.
Develop succinct introductions of varying lengths and focus (like above). You don’t want to drone on without direction or not come up for air. When this happens (all too often, sadly), the person you just met likely will forget most of what you said (and hesitate to introduce you to others).
Speaking about yourself confidently and concisely is a skill that improves with time and practice. Repeat and refine your message. Listen to how others introduce themselves (especially those whom you respect or admire) to identify what is effective and what's not.
While you don’t want to sound robotic, practice key talking points until you can speak well on them without hesitation. Remember to practice out loud as well. It’s hard to polish a complete message only mentally because of our tendency to self-edit while thinking things through versus speaking.
If you’re feeling anxious, nervous or shy -- and quickly shift conversation to the other person without sharing any information beyond your name and title -- you surrender the power to define yourself, relying on what they choose to ask (if they even do), instead of what you want them to know. Don’t waste this valuable opportunity to set the tone and communicate essential information about who you are!
Just as what you say is important, how you say it matters too. Strong voice, eye contact and body language shape the delivery of your message. Start with a firm handshake and stand tall with open body language to convey confidence, engagement and sincerity. Even if you’re nervous about meeting someone, make every effort to look at the person in the eyes, not at their shoulders, past them (i.e., at another person in the room) or towards the floor. And whatever you do, keep your phone away and on silent or vibrate mode.
You confidently introduce yourself to a new contact, shake hands and have good conversation about what you each do professionally. When your new contact offers you her business card, you reach for yours, but – oops! – your wallet or jacket pocket is empty. Not only does this reflect poorly on you, but now the responsibility of following up falls squarely on your shoulders. Plus, your new contact can’t easily follow up with you for an invitation or opportunity. With a little planning, this mistake is easily avoidable.
Avoid using your business card as an ice breaker (i.e., when first introducing yourself). An exchange of cards should happen organically during conversation (not to kick it off) and segue into next steps, like meeting for coffee, setting up a call etc.
Think of the purpose for introducing yourself as an informative conversation starter, not a pitch (although there is a time/place for transactional networking). How you briefly describe yourself professionally reflects your personal brand and impacts first impressions you make across business situations. Strengthen this impression (and avoid introduction mistakes) by practicing out loud, including variations of length and focus, so you can speak about yourself confidently and concisely in any context.
Continue to improve your brand with these related Point Road Group Resources!
Editor's Note: This article was updated in April 2021. It was originally published in 2018.