How you introduce yourself to others makes an indelible first impression. What you say — and how you say it — can shape and set the tone for new relationships. Today, self-introductions occur during video meetings, online events and phone calls, and perhaps a rare in-person opportunity. Here are 5 important tips to remember when you introduce yourself virtually:
1. You’re more than your title & company — and your opening line should be too.
You sell yourself short by just saying your name, position and employer. While you don’t need to present your life story, adding a bit more color (based on what’s most relevant for the situation and audience) can enrich and inform the conversation to follow. Consider the impact of each variation:
- Hi, I’m Jennifer Jones, President of Any Corporation.
- Hi, I’m Jennifer Jones, President of Any Corporation, a B2B marketing agency that helps accounting firms grow their business.
- Hi, I’m Jennifer Jones, one of rare few CPAs in B2B marketing, and I run Any Corporation, an agency that helps accounting firms increase brand awareness and revenue.
You control what people first learn about you — and by extension, the sound bite they can use to introduce you to others. Even if you work for a well-known company, noting some detail about your division, department, geographic oversight, specialization etc. is more helpful than name and company alone.
Related to this, LinkedIn profile headlines often serve as virtual introductions. Your headline is highly visible real estate, so take advantage of it and include more than just a job title. The messaging shapes first impressions.
2. Get to know new contacts BEFORE asking for something.
Effective networking is about building relationships, not brokering transactions in the first conversation. While new connections may ultimately result in business or other beneficial connections, don’t approach a new contact with the intent to gain or sell something off the bat. It’s off-putting to pitch or lead with an ask before getting to know someone.
When meeting someone new, communicate interest in getting to know them. A personable introduction can naturally evolve into conversation, paving the way for additional communication and the beginning of a relationship. In contrast, a “bait and switch” intro — one that flips immediately to a sales pitch — is more likely to be the first and final conversation. People are put off by direct solicitation and will be more hesitant to introduce you to others.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever talk in detail about what you do, discuss who you’re looking to meet or ask for help from new contacts. The key is putting in the time to get to know them first, including what their needs are and understanding how you can potentially help them. This ensures that any requests you make in the future are sincere and appropriate.
3. Practice brevity…
Before logging on to your next virtual meeting, identify what’s most important to communicate. Then practice out loud, developing versions of varying lengths and focus (like above). Hearing yourself out loud is better than in your mind alone because we tend to self-edit when thinking to ourselves. You can also better identify if you’re rambling.
Practice enough so you’re comfortable introducing yourself virtually to any audience. The goal is to sound confident and at ease, not scripted and robotic. Remember, too, that time feels longer on video, so shorter introductions and responses will make a stronger impact.
One of the best ways to learn what works and what doesn’t is to pay close attention to how others introduce themselves (especially those whom you respect and admire). It helps tease out what sounds good and what you should avoid saying.
4. … but don’t sell yourself short.
While brevity is key, don’t overdo self-restraint either. By saying too little and not communicating what you want someone to know about you, you surrender the power to define who you are by relying on what someone else chooses to ask. An introduction is a valuable opportunity to set the tone and communicate essential information about who you are, so don’t waste it!
Consider how you’d like to be known and what your goals are. There are ways to sow the seeds for the direction you’d like to move without going in for an ask. Is your company expanding services or entering new markets? Are you interested in taking on a bigger role? Are you looking for a board seat, next job or speaking opportunities? Depending what your goals are, your network can be a huge source of help… but only after you get to know people. Then, you can steer conversation to discuss mutual interests.
5. Body language still matters behind a screen.
What you say is important, but how you conduct yourself when saying it matters too. Body language and speech shape delivery of your message. If you tend to speak quickly, consciously slow down when on video to ensure people can understand — and hopefully retain — what you’re saying. Making eye contact, even through a computer, also impacts how your message is received. Look directly at the camera because it feels more like you’re looking eye-to-eye with viewers.
When others have the virtual floor, remember to smile and/or nod, which conveys active listening and engagement. Remove visual distractions (turn phones face down and turn off email notifications) because they can easily throw off eye contact and (unintentionally) communicate that you’re disinterested or not paying attention. Be mindful of facial expressions, hand gestures and nervous habits too because they’re much more noticeable on camera than in-person.
Knowing how to introduce yourself well in any virtual situation is essential. Don’t miss the opportunity to make a great first impression that can influence a relationship. Consider your introduction as a conversation starter, not an elevator pitch. (A pitch, by definition, means you’re trying to sell something; this is not what you should be doing when first meeting someone.) Instead, with confidence and precision, introduce key information to spark further conversation and drive new relationships forward.