When attending events that are ripe with networking opportunities – industry conferences, corporate presentations during MBA recruiting season, internal company meetings or client receptions – one key element that sets the tone and directly impacts new relationships is… how you introduce yourself!
What you say when you meet someone, as well as how you say it, influences that person’s first impression of you and can also affect how they’ll introduce you to others.
So, take note: you control the message about how you want to be thought of professionally.
What You Say
“Hi, I’m Jane Smith, an analyst from ABC Company, nice to meet you.” Your name, title and company/school are fine for a name tag, but incomplete as an introduction because they usually 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.
Ask yourself: What do I want someone to take away from meeting me for the first time?
This doesn’t require a highly complex, rehearsed elevator pitch, but you should have a succinct and informative message that hits a few important points.
If you have an overly detailed, long-winded introduction, key messages get lost and you make it hard for someone to understand and recall who you are, what you do, or your expertise. As a result, this person may struggle with introducing you effectively to others. Worse yet, coming across as a “talkaholic” might lead someone to think twice about introducing you to others at all!
Effective introductions are short and sweet, plant a few seeds to spark subsequent conversation and leave others wanting to know more.
Remember to be consistent too! Communicating a clear message about who you are across the different ways people encounter you is an essential part of a strong personal brand. So, for example, make sure key points in your introduction are also captured in your LinkedIn profile, bio and resume.
How You Say It
How you introduce yourself – particularly through body language – influences how your message is received too. Look the other person in the eye and offer a solid handshake. If you’re standing in a group, make sure your speech and stance are inclusive to everyone.
Speak in a self-assured and strong voice. Even if you feel nervous or 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, as well as any other habits that may arise when you feel uneasy – dropping your voice, shifting side-to-side, playing with your hair, fidgeting with your watch, or pulling on your name badge. These kinds of behaviors project insecurity and detract from your message.
Know Your Audience
Slightly adjusting how you introduce yourself based on the audience can strengthen your message. You’re more memorable when you’re relatable. If everyone at an event has something in common (like if you’re all students/alumni from the same business school), tailor a point in your opening that’s more relevant and interesting to them.
Take the event itself and attendee makeup into consideration too. What you say when meeting others will likely vary at an internal company event vs. an industry conference, or at a local seminar vs. an international symposium. For events that have no direct connection to your industry, job function or area of expertise (undergrad alumni events, volunteer programs etc.), think about the audience ahead of time and what’s most valuable for them to learn about you.
Listen to others for ideas.
Whether at a meeting, cocktail reception or conference, listen to how others introduce themselves. You’ll hear some great examples and some completely ineffective ones too – “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, observe closely to pick up on what works and what doesn’t.
Practice, practice, practice!
A great introduction is not mastered overnight. With time, 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, your introduction should progress too. Position yourself how you want to be thought of going forward; don’t just focus on the past.
- Introducing yourself shapes the first impression you make on others
- You control the message
- What you choose to say (or not say) can influence relationships and opportunities
- Be informative, yet concise
- Strengthen your message by observing others and incorporating what works
Alyssa Gelbard is the Founder and President of Point Road Group, a global career consulting and personal branding firm. Point Road Group helps executives and experienced professionals market themselves to achieve their career goals. Alyssa holds an MBA in Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a BA in Sociology from Tufts University.