Think about the last time you introduced yourself. Did you make an informative and engaging first impression? Did it lead to a relationship that landed a new customer, referral or job? Too often, people treat an introduction as nothing more than a cursory greeting -- but it doesn’t have to be! What you say – and how you say it – is the key first step in establishing connections that can drive opportunities.
In Point Road Group’s work with companies and executives, we spend a lot of time advising people on how to introduce themselves effectively because of how important this first impression is in any business situation.
There are five introduction mistakes we most frequently help fix. If you or your colleagues make these missteps too, start working on them before your next meeting or event, so you don’t jeopardize a great opportunity.
Does your introduction include the exact same details regardless of the person you’re talking to? This is a mistake because what you say won’t universally resonate with everyone. Whenever possible, subtly adjust how you introduce yourself based on commonality with the people you’re talking to.
How do you identify common ground? Sometimes it’s more obvious (like the reason you’re both attending a meeting or event) and other times it can be based on something others say about themselves. Consider industry, functional area and geography, shared area of expertise (like M&A, risk management or data privacy) or personal interest (e.g., increasing board diversity or investing in women-owned businesses). Building something relatable into your introduction helps build rapport faster. People pay more attention – and are much more likely to remember you later – when what you say resonates with them.
When meeting someone new, one of the most common mistakes we see people make is attempting to pack in as many details as possible. There’s a difference, however, between being informative vs. long-winded. Delivering a monologue about your professional life story puts the onus on the listener to filter through and determine what's important to remember about you later. And chances are, if you talk nonstop, people will tune out a lot of it or only remember the first or last thing you said (whether or not it’s the most relevant to them). If you know you’re guilty of this, spend some time clarifying what’s most important for people to know about you.
Brevity is important, but saying too little is a mistake too! If you omit key information relating to your expertise, industry specialty, notable accomplishments etc., you can miss the chance to establish credibility and connection with others. This is essential for developing relationships. In addition, providing too short of an intro limits others’ ability to share something meaningful about you when they introduce you to others.
Have you been introducing yourself the same way for years? If you’ve evolved professionally, what you say when you introduce yourself should evolve too. Whether you’re meeting a prospect or new business contact, speaking at a conference or interviewing for a job, don’t sell yourself short – or your company – with a stale, outdated introduction. Include core areas of expertise, impact on the business, notable accomplishments etc. -- and when you talk about your company, incorporate its current messaging too.
While what you say is important, how you deliver your introduction can make or break it. Confident and poised nonverbal signals contribute to making an authentic, positive impression. Things like poor eye contact, speaking too quietly, lacking energy or showing nervous habits (like shifting weight from side to side, twirling a pen, playing with jewelry etc.), will distract from your message – and people are likely to remember this about you more than whatever you said (or not remember you at all).
When on video, your virtual presence and poise (including looking at the camera and staying fully engaged – and not looking elsewhere like a second screen or phone) is also critical because of how quickly and significantly visual cues influence first impressions.
Business opportunities are all about relationships – and every relationship starts with some kind of introduction. Think carefully about what you want others to know about you – both initially and to recall later. Consider what information may be important and helpful to a prospect, contact who can be a referral source, hiring manager, fellow executive or board director. Practice a strong, confident delivery and get comfortable with tweaking your message on the fly to convey the most relevant things with whomever you are talking to. And above all, remember that a great introduction should leave others wanting to continue the conversation with you and learn more.