Do you know how to effectively introduce yourself?
Next week, my twin girls will be entering kindergarten. Last week they each received a hand-written letter from the principal of the school. She introduced herself to the girls by listing her favorite things to eat and by sharing her summertime activities. My husband and I also received a letter of introduction. However, in our letter, the principal described her experience and background along with her goals for the upcoming year.
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I have to say I was impressed. It’s clear this principal understands that people quickly form strong opinions based on first impressions, and that a well-crafted, strong, self-introduction is a critical part of making a good first impression. Whether you are in a classroom or a conference room-- or even online--the ability to effectively introduce yourself is a critically important communication skill.
First impressions are made quickly and they are very difficult change. In this episode I’ll cover quick and dirty tips for effectively introducing yourself.
Use the Other Person’s Name
First, if possible, all introductions should start with the name of the other person. Of course, in a letter or on online, that’s easy to do: Dear Ariana or Hi Daniela. In person, it’s tempting to start with your own name, but if you know the name of the other person, use his name first. In a group setting, you can just say: ¨Hi, everyone!¨
Once you’ve said your greeting, then you should say your name. In fact, in a professional setting, it’s important to say your name twice. It’s also a good habit to slow down and say your name clearly. For example, “Hi Jane, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall.” Depending on the setting you may also want to include your title, your company, or appropriate context.
“Hi Mary, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. I’m one of the speakers today. It’s great to meet you, Mary.
Notice, you’ll want to say the name of the other person twice as well. That will help you to remember her name and it shows your interest in her.
Communicate Proper Body Language
As you are saying these initial words, remember that the majority of your impact will come from your tone of voice and body language. Of course, with all introductions you’ll want to communicate enthusiasm by smiling, using direct eye contact, and speaking with an upbeat, positive tone of voice. In a business setting, you’ll likely also include a handshake.
You’ll want a firm, full-handed, web-to-web, handshake. Be sure to listen to my previous episode on effective handshaking and be sure to test your handshake on several folks before important introductions such as job interviews.
Along with a confident handshake, you’ll also need to walk and stand with confidence. That means walking slightly faster than normal, with your shoulders back. I always like to imagine someone pouring cold water down my back because this mental image helps me to move faster and keep the right posture. Your goal is confidence but not over-confidence (that’s just intimidating and off-putting). And remember, fresh breath is important. Always carry mints with you.
Build Rapport Through Common Ground
Next, an important part of any introduction is to consider your audience. Who exactly are you introducing yourself to? What will they find interesting and compelling? What can you share that might help to quickly build common ground and help you make a connection?
In the letter the principal sent to my children she mentions that she likes to eat pizza and ice cream and go to the beach in the summer. Of course, she chose these particular things on purpose--what kid doesn’t like pizza, ice cream, and the going to the beach! Similarly, in the parent introduction letter, she shares her goals for the new students during the year--which of course, are shared by any parent.
In a classroom setting, students and teachers should share their interests, their educational goals, and their activities--again in an effort to establish common ground. In a conference room, it’s really no different. Business professionals share their professional interests, their business goals, and their business activities.
Again the goal is to establish common ground and make a connection. It can be anything that you are both interested in. It doesn't have to be school or business related. It doesn't even have to be of great importance. Just be sure to start with "safe" obvious links and avoid controversial topics.
“Hi, Mary, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. It’s great to meet you Mary. I’m a communication specialist and I’m also one of the speakers today. I’d love to hear who you thought was the best speaker so far?
Be Brief and Conversational
Self-introductions should be short and conversational. Share something about yourself, then ask a question that invites the other person to join the conversation. Notice that self-introductions should be short and conversational. After sharing very briefly about yourself, you then ask a question that helps lead your partner into a conversation. (The exception of course, is in an interview setting, where it’s best to let your interviewer lead the conversation).
It’s possible to be conversational even in writing--again by asking questions. In the letter from the principal to my girls, she encouraged them to write her back by asking them what they liked to eat and do during the summer.
How to Introduce Yourself to a Roomful of People
However, at times, a self-introduction may be one-sided --such as when a roomful of people are asked to introduce themselves. In this case, you may be asked to provide specific information, but at other times you may be free to respond in any manner you choose. The first case is easy--just remember to include a greeting, your name, and all the requested information (regardless of the responses of previous participants).
Focus on 3 Things Only
When the introduction details are your choice, I recommend picking three things that you think others in the group might be able relate to. Again, the idea is to build rapport. By choosing just three things, your introduction will be more memorable. In addition, you can expand and contract the length of your response by providing examples or details for each of your chosen three things.
For example, for a very short introduction I might say something like,
“Hi, everyone. I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. I’m a professional speaker and author who enjoys dancing and photography.”
For a longer answer I might say something like…
“Hi everyone. I’m Lisa, Lisa B. Marshall. I’m a professional speaker and author. I specialize in communication skills and I’m excited because my new audiobook on interviewing skills will be released shortly. I enjoy dancing, although I’m not that good at it. I really love Latin music and salsa dancing is my favorite. I also enjoy photography. In fact, I am thinking of buying myself a digital SLR for my upcoming birthday.”
So in summary, first remember using names are important. Showing enthusiasm and confidence are also essential. Then remember to build rapport through common ground. Be conversational and brief, focusing on only three things. I love to hear from listeners and as your “back-to-school” homework, I invite you to send me your self-introduction. Really!
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication, your success is my business.
Handshake image from Shutterstock