Whenever you attend an event where networking occurs – such as a conference, professional association gathering, industry seminar, internal meeting or client outing – one key element that sets the tone and directly impacts new relationships and opportunities is… how you introduce yourself!
The first few words you say when you meet someone – and how you say them – influences that person’s first impression of you. You control the message about how you want to be thought of professionally. This has critical significance because the impact you make when meeting people (and sharing topline information about yourself) will shape how they think of you and how they’ll introduce you to others.
What You Say
“Hello, I’m Jane Smith from ABC Company, nice to meet you…” Your name and company (and title) are fine for a name tag, but they make for an incomplete introduction, as they say nothing about your expertise, industry specialty, results you drive or clients you work with. Whenever possible, your personal introduction should be a little more memorable than a label.
Be relevant to who you are today and where you’re heading tomorrow. Think about what you want someone to take away from meeting you for the first time. You don’t need to deliver a minute-long, overly rehearsed elevator pitch when introducing yourself, but you should have a succinct and informative message that hits a few important points.
Key messages get lost when you try to say too many things in a long-winded introduction, making it hard for someone to understand and recall who you are, what you do, the results you drive etc. In turn, this makes it harder for the person to introduce you effectively to others. Worse yet, you might lead someone to think twice about introducing you at all because a “talkaholic” – i.e., someone who doesn’t come up for air – isn’t exactly the type of person who others are excited to meet!
A good, effective introduction is short and sweet, plants a few seeds to spark subsequent conversation and leaves the person wanting to know more. You can come up with a brief version as well as a slightly extended one, as long as the latter is to the point.
Remember to be consistent too! Central to a strong personal brand is communicating a clearly defined message across the different ways people encounter you. So, for example, make sure your LinkedIn profile content aligns with what you say when introducing yourself.
How You Say It
How you introduce yourself – particularly the body language and confidence you convey – influences how the message is received too. Look the other person in the eye and offer a solid handshake. If you’re standing in a small group, make sure your speech and stance are inclusive to everyone. If you only face one person, your body language (intentionally or not) signals to others that they’re less important. Instead, make eye contact with everyone and pivot posture towards others periodically.
Speak in a self-assured and strong voice. Even if you’re feeling nervous and anxious, remember you’re making a first impression, so aim to project confidence. Many people tend to speak faster when nervous too, so be mindful of your speed.
Also be cognizant of other habits that may arise when you feel uneasy, such as shifting weight from side-to-side, stepping back and forth, playing with your hair, fidgeting with your watch or pulling on your name badge. These kinds of behaviors project insecurity and can detract from your message. By maintaining self-awareness and keeping certain habits in check, people will pick up on your confidence and be more attentive to what you’re saying, even in a brief introduction.
Know Your Audience
Slightly adjusting how you introduce yourself depending on with whom you’re speaking can strengthen the impact of your message. If everyone at an event has something in common, tailor a point in your opening that’s more relevant and interesting to them.
Take the event itself into consideration too. For example, what you say when meeting others will likely vary at an internal company event versus an industry conference. Conference location – such as local or international – can shape your message too, since attendee makeup will differ. For events that have no direct connection to your industry, job function or area of expertise (college alumni events, community volunteer programs etc.), think about the prospective audience ahead of time and what is most valuable for them to learn about you.
Listen to others for ideas. Whether at a meeting, seminar, cocktail reception or conference, listen to how others introduce themselves. You’ll hear some great examples and some completely ineffective ones – “Hi, I’m Joe Jones, Vice President of A Company You’ve Never Heard Of.” No matter what the person’s industry, job function, title or stage in their career, you can learn by observation what works and what doesn’t.
Practice, practice, practice! You won’t master a great introduction overnight. With time, strategic thought for customization and rehearsal, you’ll get comfortable with delivering a compelling, cohesive and concise message. Practice out loud, both by yourself and with others, and ask for feedback. Be careful with rote memorization, however, which can come across as inauthentic or even robotic.
Evolution over time. As you progress in your career, how you introduce yourself should progress too. Frame your introduction how you want to be thought of going forward; don’t just focus on the past.
- The way you introduce yourself shapes the first impression you make on others
- You control the message
- What you choose to say (or not say) can impact relationships and opportunities
- Be informative yet concise
- Strengthen your message by listening to others and incorporating what works