The Worst Way To Introduce Yourself
An introduction is the key to successful networking. But sometimes we just can’t connect. Learn 6 ways to build productive connections.
I attended a conference recently. It was a conference for authors who wanted to become professional speakers. On the train back returning home I realized I had made a BIG mistake.
SPONSOR: http://stitcher.com/lisa. Use code Lisa to enter to win $1000.
What was my mistake? I didn't connect with enough of the attendees. I often tell people that the biggest benefit you get from attending seminars is often not the actual content but the people you meet and the relationships that you build.
Why Networking and Connecting Sometimes Fails
I was thinking about it the entire train ride back. What happened? I started out sitting in the front of the room and by the end of the conference I was sitting in the last row, on the isle, in the seat closest to the exit.
Why didn't I connect? Why did it seem to get worse as the conference went on?
Looking back, I realized it had to do with how I was introducing myself. I failed to follow my own advice! (Remember that classic quote: “We teach what we most need to learn!”)
I was too focused on me and not focused enough on the people I met. What exactly was my mistake? I introduced myself as a “professional speaker.” You might be saying, “Well what’s wrong with that? You are a professional speaker, aren’t you?”
Yes, I am. And normally that's what I say. But in this case saying that wasn’t the best choice. In fact, it was a really bad choice!
Build Rapport Through Common Ground
I didn’t keep in mind that the other attendees were there to learn how to be professional public speakers. A better and equally true answer could have been: "I am an author trying to make public speaking a bigger part of my business."
The point is, my choice of words separated me from my fellow attendees. While I was unconsciously protecting my ego, I was creating distance.
I’m embarrassed to admit this but it gets worse. After one of my proclamations of “professional speaker,” someone asked me: "Well then, what is your goal for attending?" With a smirk, I replied: “espionage!" (I mentioned I am embarrassed, right?)
Later someone subtly corrected me and said, "Oh, you're doing research." Research was in fact more accurate. (I was interested in aspects of the training and I also wanted to see what material resonated with the audience. The speaker knew I was there and in fact had invited me.) Choosing the word “espionage” again distanced me, instead of connecting.
Finally, I noticed that I chose not to introduce myself to some people based on the topic of his or her book. I won’t lie, I was judging a person by his book (cover). If I thought the topic was “hocus pocus,” I didn’t bother.
Other times I chose not to introduce myself because I felt intimidated. For example, I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet image consultants or fitness consultants because I wasn’t feeling good about my appearance.
So what would I do differently next time? What can you learn from my mistakes? Here are 6 Quick and Dirty tips to successful networking:
Tip # 1 - Plan
Next time, before an event, I’ll remind myself to think about alternative introductions. I’ll consider what I have in common with the attendees, come up with a variety of introductions that might work, and choose what is best on the fly.
Tip #2 - Say Less
Next time, I’ll say less, listen more, and ask questions. I’ll try to relate what my conversation partner says and does to what I do. I’ll let our conversations unfold naturally.
Tip # 3 - Focus on Them
[[AdMiddle]I’ll focus conversations on how I might be able to serve others instead of focusing on what I am trying to gain. When asked about my occupation, I’ll say: “I market products and services to help people to communicate better so that they have more success in their businesses. What communication issues are you facing now?”
Tip #4 - Share Common Ground
I'll look for common ground with the other attendees who have come to the conference to gain insight and understanding.
Tip #5 - Be Appropriate and Specific to the Context
I’ll keep the context of the introduction in mind. After all, I wouldn't say I'm a professional speaker at a PTA meeting, just as I wouldn’t say that I’m a mother when asked about my occupation at a conference. It’s crucial to gauge context when introducing yourself.
Tip #6 - Be Open
Finally, I’ll introduce myself to as many people as possible. I’ll try to make a connection with everyone in the room, not just a select few. I’ll even choose to purposefully connect with people who make me uncomfortable.
After the seminar I was looking at the book reviews on Amazon for one of the “hocus pocus” authors I chose not to meet. I noticed that this author had many stellar reviews from fellow attendees at that event. My loss. Not only did I fail to meet that person, I also lost a potential business opportunity. My hope is that by sharing my mistakes you won’t find yourself in my shoes!
After this failed conference, I decided I needed a “do-over.” So I attended another seminar with the main focus to connect. I wrote about that event on my blog. Join me on my facebook page to hear what happened and the new lessons learned.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, Passionate about communication; your success is my business.
Connect with me for discounts, exclusive tips, and other freebies:
Join my lisabmarshall newsletter (exclusive content & offers)
Join my professional network LinkedIn (expand your visibility into LinkedIn DB)
Join my social networks: Twitter or Facebook (interact with me personally)
I sincerely love to connect with listeners. Please send me your questions, your successes, and your reason for listening to firstname.lastname@example.org