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Here's Why You Need to Rewrite Your Bio

Need to freshen your professional board bio? Lisa talks about what your profesional bio needs to get noticed. 

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
December 14, 2015

Most of us update our resumes and LinkedIn profiles, but few of us also consistently maintain our professional bios. What's the difference, you ask? A bio is much shorter than a resume or online profile and is focused on bolstering credibility. Bios are very crisp, concise, and compelling words that convey your background and are used for a variety of purposes such as for creating speech introductions, for article bylines, for book jackets, for board appointments, for media introductions, or other networking opportunities. Bios provide credibility and should link to more information. In fact, I think bios are so important that I maintain a "secret" unlinked page on my website specifically to maintain my professional bios and photos.  (Visit www.lisabmarshall.com/bio if you want to see mine as an example.) 

When it comes to creating bios, I always recommend you create three different lengths, a full bio (as long as needed but as concise as possible, one page maximum), a short bio (about 75 words or one paragraph), and mini-bio (about 25 words or 1-2 sentence). Although each length serves a different purpose, we'll focus on the longest one—the full bio, mostly because of a recent question I received from a Public Speaker reader. He was/is looking for board positions and asked if I would review his board bio - which is a full bio, plus a few extras.  

The Harvard Business Review wrote recently about what your professional bio needs to get noticed, recognizing that few people give their bios enough attention. The main point of the article (and I agree) is that your bio should be a clear, concise, and consistent among all of the messages you use to communicate your personal brand. You shouldn't just quickly create something new each time you go to an event—invest in creating a better bio that can be consistently used across all of your activities. Just be sure to regularly update it as you reach new milestones in your career.  

What to Put in a Business Board Bio

In a board bio, the order of the information is slightly different than a standard full bio. The first paragraph should include the high-level skills and capabilities that you would potentially bring to the board. When creating a bio, try to keep in mind the needs of your typical audience. In the case of a board bio, the readers are looking for someone with particular strengths, experience, and connections. Show them right at the beginning that you have what they want.

Avoid high-level “buzz words” that carry little meaning. Use clear, specific functional terms like six sigma, lean manufacturing, supply change management, acquisitions, new product development, etc. Choose key words that are understood and desired in your field—terms that someone might be searching for when looking to fill the type of board seat you are after.  If you have developed your LinkedIn summary carefully you should be using the same or similar key words.

The second section should highlight relevant experiences that demonstrate a solid background of the functional areas highlighted in the first paragraph. You can include phrases such as adept at facility planning, labor relations, logistics, teamwork, launched new initiatives, increased product margins as well as customer satisfaction. But it's best to quantify or qualify your results whenever possible. For example, increased product margins by 2% while increasing customer satisfaction by 4%. This is likely to be more than one paragraph long, if you have had a significant career and have made considerable contributions in your field. It's important to state all of your relevant achievements in a matter-of-fact manner and order them by importance (not necessarily chronologically).  

Finish your bio with some information about you outside of business. Unlike a resume, it's okay to sprinkle in some personal color. This helps people to see you as a more rounded individual. What charities or causes do you volunteer for? What other boards do you serve on? What are your passions and interests, your family situation? Is your educational background exceptional? Have you had any unique experiences that would set you apart from others? Also, it's important to always include a link to further information (for example a link to your LinkedIn profile or your website), so that it's easy for people to learn more about you and your work. Oh, and remember a board bio also needs to indicate the types of board positions you are looking for (although you can also state that in a cover letter).   

Finally, although not technically part of the bio, you almost always need at least one professional photo of yourself. Someone experienced in business photos will be able to help you pick the right shot for the image/brand you want to portray. Make sure the whole presentation, from cover letter to bio to picture, makes a concise, clear, and compelling summary. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

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