Introducing ourselves is something that we all do almost every day. “I’m John, and I’m an electrical engineer.” We present ourselves on the telephone, on an airplane, in an elevator, in a meeting, when talking to a concierge, and in many other situations. But when was the last time you stepped back and thought about how to introduce you? Is your presentation of yourself an effective one? Or is it what occurs to you at the moment? Does it get the job done?
To be fabulous at introducing yourself, you need to take several factors into account. What are your goals? What is the location? To whom are you introducing yourself? And finally, how much time will you have to present yourself? When you put these elements together, you can craft an effective introduction.
The location: The place where you introduce yourself can make a huge difference in your effectiveness. The kind of introduction you would make in an elevator would be different from the one you would make at a cocktail party. The physical space affects the other person’s state of mind. The place can be a critical determiner of your style. For example, when a speaker arrives at a podium for a talk, a third party often introduces him. It often involves summarizing the speaker’s background and accomplishments. You obviously cannot use the same kind of introduction when you meet someone in a conference room or at a business meeting. And if you introduced yourself on a podium the same way as you present yourself in an elevator, you would again be ineffective. The location makes an immense difference.
The audience: As you direct your introduction at someone, your audience is a critical factor. When you tailor your introduction to the audience, you make it more effective. Your audience’s role in a situation should determine your introduction. The role someone is playing defines their state of mind and expectations. And thus you need to keep the personality and the context of your audience in mind.
The role a person plays in a situation will set his expectations. For example, a CEO of a company will be different in her office and someone different in a neighbourhood grocery store. She will have different expectations when meeting you at a grocery store versus meeting you as the CEO in her office. By recognizing this fact, you can become a more successful introducer.
Your goals: Since effectiveness is defined by how well you achieve your goals, they should be primary in your mind when you choose your style. You may believe that every introduction does not have an objective, but that may not be accurate. Behind every interaction you have with another person, there is a goal. You may want to be memorable, or want to influence someone. Or, your goal may simply be to befriend someone. At other times, you may want to sell something or just have a casual conversation with them.
If your goal is to impress someone by making an impressive introduction, I suggest you think again. What do you really want to accomplish? Why do you want to impress someone? Is it because you want them to remember you? Or do you want them to like you so that you can become friends?
You may agree that if you act without a goal, your actions may not always be effective. The same is true about introducing yourself.
Most introductions are boring and ineffective? By “ineffective,” I mean that the other person barely remembers what you said. That is because most of them focus on a name and a job. In fact, most introductions are as brief as “hello, I am Jim.” That’s it. Then the speaker expects to be asked questions. Most people expect to be asked, “What do you do?” How effective do you think such an introduction would be?
Four Elements of a Powerful Introduction:
So what is the difference between the above four methods? Why are some more effective than others? It is because they use four elements of an introduction in different ways. If you remember these four elements, you can tailor your introduction too.
The Element of Surprise: The first element is the element of surprise. When you say something surprising, it can help you to draw attention to yourself. It can make an otherwise distracted counterparty suddenly focus on your words a lot more. It can also assist you to become memorable.
The Story: The second element is the story you tell. A story can make your introduction interesting, engaging, and memorable. You don’t have to tell a long story to use this element. A story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Every story starts with a context of the protagonist, followed by a major challenge and finally a resolution. But you do not have to tell the story in that logical manner. If you focus on the problem or the resolution, you may be able to communicate the entire plot. When you are introducing yourself form a podium, you can tell longer stories, but for one on one introduction, you need one element of the story you want to communicate.
The connection: This is the third element of your introduction. This element helps you draw in the other person. One way of connecting with your audience is to share what you can do for them while the second way is to talk about something that may be common to both of you. If you have seen the series Mad Men, you may recall the first time when Don Draper meets Conrad Hilton. Don Draper briefly tells Hilton his background as a poor kid. Draper’s story of overcoming hurdles to achieve success touches Conrad who then becomes a big client for Draper.
Temporal Orientation: The fourth element is that of time or temporal orientation. Your introduction can focus on the past, present or future depending on what your objective is. If Jim meets a lot of people at a party where he expects to bump into venture capitalists, his introduction is something like “hello, I’m Jim. I’m transforming management education in the Third World.” By using a temporal orientation to the future, this helps to focus the rest of the conversation on an objective that involves something in the future. On the other hand, if Jim is meeting a group of students and professors, he could say “hi, I’m Jim, a teacher of business and a retired colonel from the United States Army” Your introduction will usually focus on the present rather than the past or the future. But let that be a choice rather than a default.
So friends, the way you introduce yourself can make a big difference to your career and your life. Introductions can determine how successfully you make friends, achieve your goals, and persuade others. Take some time to think about how you introduce yourself and create three different kinds of introductions. Try not to present yourself ad-lib, and instead use thoughtful, well-prepared openers.
MMS – Sem III