You can’t escape introductions.
When you attend a conference, you introduce yourself to new faces you meet.
When you attend a social function, you introduce yourself.
When you attend an in-house training, you introduce yourself to your colleagues from other offices.
When you attend college, you introduce yourself to new friends.
The first impression you create through your introduction can sometimes have far-reaching impact on your personal and professional life. People can take first impression as the last. And even if they don’t, your introduction may not excite them to carry the discussion further. Imagine, a crucial business lead losing interest because you faltered in your intro pitch, especially when many others were vying for the same pot of gold.
In this post, I’ll cover how you can introduce yourself in different situations and, equally important, how you can sustain the conversation meaningfully (otherwise, your meeting will be over in 2-3 minutes, thereby making your efforts futile).
In this post, you’ll see intro under four situations:
Intro in a one-to-one meeting
Intro in a formal meeting, training, or other event where others too are present
Intro to a sought-after person where you don’t get a second chance
Intro in a social gathering where others too are present
Let’s start with the first.
1. Intro in a one-to-one meeting
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, start with the obvious – your name.
Hi, I’m Amit.
Hello, my name is Amit.
Good morning, my name is Amit. [This one is more formal.]
However, avoid following expressions to introduce:
This is Amit.
You should get a response from the other person on the following line:
Hi, I’m Richard. Nice to meet you.
Hi, I’m Richard. Good to meet you.
Good Morning, I’m Richard. [This expression would be in response to ‘Good morning’ introduction]
Though unlikely, if the other person doesn’t tell her/ his name, you can ask:
What’s your name?
In case, you’re not able to hear the name properly, you can ask:
Sorry, I didn’t get your name.
After exchanging names, you can move to other ice-breaking questions such as:
Amit: Nice to meet you. Where’re you from?
Richard: I’m from Bangalore. What about you?
Amit: I’m from this city itself, Delhi. Did you arrive in the city yesterday?
Richard: No, I took the first flight today.
Amit: Must be tiring to come straight to the conference after a two-hour flight.
Richard: Ya, it is, but I guess I’ve got used to it by now.
Amit: Bangalore’s weather is so much better compared to Delhi’s. I hope you’re coping with it fine.
Richard: It’s very muggy here. Quite terrible for a person used to a different kind. But that’s OK, because I’m not planning to spend too much time outdoors while I’m here.
A minute or two of chit chat on topics such as your city, weather, traffic, an ongoing major sports event, and venue of the meeting can unfreeze initial reservation in talking to a stranger and lead to more substantive talks.
1.2 Move to substantive discussion
After the initial chit chat, you can switch gears and move to the substantive part of your intro. (Sometimes, people jump into this part immediately after exchanging names without spending even a minute on icebreaking. That’s fine too. Adapt as per the situation unfolds.)
(Note: The two conversations below come after the initial chit chat.)
Conversation with a person from your organization whom you meet in an in-house training
Richard: I work in the business development team in Bangalore office.
Amit: I’m in the customer service department in Delhi office. I believe you would be working closely with my colleague Nandan from customer service department in Bangalore.
[Comments: The above conversation provides further peek into their intro – what they do.]
Richard: Yes, I know Nandan well. We talk almost every other day with regard to one or the other client. What type of customer issues you typically get here?
Amit: Quite a variety, but most are on refund of late payment charges.
Richard: That’s not too different from what our customer service team faces. What’s the most challenging aspect of dealing with such complaints?
Amit: Well, the challenging part is that the late charge has been imposed correctly in more than 95 percent of cases, but you can’t say that to a customer point blank. You need to politely put your point across and decline the request for refund, but many of them, despite knowing that they’re on the wrong side, insist on talking to my supervisor.
Richard: I can understand, but there isn’t much you can do to change the situation.
Conversation among three persons during a conference on digital marketing
X: So what brings you to this conference?
Y: We design and develop websites, including ecommerce. We also design and develop Apps, both Android and iOS. In the conference, I’m looking to meet people who may be interested in building their website or App.
Z: I run a digital marketing agency. I help clients in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and paid ads on platforms such as Google and Facebook. What about you?
X: I’m working on an App at the moment. This App will gather reviews from college students and recent graduates on different aspects of college life such as academics, placement, infrastructure, and so on. At the moment, it’s not easy for a college aspirant to access authentic information on prospective colleges.
[Comments: The above conversation provides further peek into their intro – what they do.]
Z: That sounds exciting. When do you plan to launch? And what’s your marketing plan?
X: We expect to launch in three months. As far as marketing is concerned, we’re planning to reach out to college students directly, offering them some incentive to leave reviews. But for the other side of the coin – college aspirants – we’re yet to figure out a concrete plan.
Z: To tell you from the top of my head, for college aspirants, you may run ads on websites that collate basic information of colleges. There are few of them with significant traffic. You may even run ads on Google and Facebook targeting the right age group.
X: I agree. Those are good suggestions. I’ve to leave now, but we can connect in 2-3 days to take the discussion further. Maybe we’ve some common ground here.
How to make your one-to-one talk more impactful?
If you want to increase the likelihood of your introduction resulting in a desirable outcome, keep following in mind:
1. Make comments and observations as well
During the initial chit chat, more questions are fine because you’re trying to learn basic facts about the other person. But once you cross that stage, start making comments and observations as well.
I see a point in what you’re saying.
Your fascination for wide-ranging use and impact of block chain technology really stands out. But do you think…? [An observation and a follow-on question]
2. Ask open-ended questions more
Within questions, ask open-ended questions more. (A close-ended question requires a short answer, and therefore discussion ends in a flash.)
‘What’s your morning routine like?’ (open-ended) is a better question than ‘What time do you get up in the morning?’ (close-ended).
‘Where do you see your industry moving this year?’ (open-ended) is a better question than ‘Is your industry likely to beat last year’s growth rate?’ (close-ended).
3. Channelize people’s desire to talk about themselves
Dale Carnegie in his iconic book How to Win Friends and Influence People said:
Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.
People love to talk about themselves. Therefore, to have an engaging discussion, also ask few questions and make few comments that require sharing their opinion and experience.
My brother is in college and is trying to figure out an industry to make career in. What industries would you recommend in the technology space and why?
What was the best part of that experience?
How was it growing up in that city?
How did you feel about…?
In my experience, top-notch support plays one of the most important role in closing new deals. What has been your experience?
4. Don’t be a robot
Be expressive. Smile. Maintain eye contact. Nod in affirmation. Show interest by asking follow-on questions. Express astonishment where you need to. Laugh if he cracked something funny, even if you find it stale.
Your affirmative expressions build rapport with people and encourage them to be forthcoming in their views.
Most think they’re listening when the other person is speaking.
However, without realizing, they’re thinking of the problems at home and office, planning the weekend, and something similar while the other person is speaking. Some start building their response while the other person is speaking.
If you don’t listen, you won’t be able to ask questions and make comments that will carry the conversation.
6. Don’t try too hard
Don’t try too hard to come up with an ‘intellectual’ topic to make an impression. Go with the flow, keeping in mind what you want to achieve from the discussion.
The above six points hold for most one-to-one talks, including the ones in the following three sections.
How to end a conversation?
After some time into the conversation, you’ll start hitting awkward moments of silence for lack of substantive topics to discuss. It’s time to move on. Here are few standard lines you can use to exit the discussion:
I’m going to grab some snacks. It was great talking to you.
I need to go to the restroom. Here is my card/ phone number. Let’s catch up later.
I want to talk to the panelist over there. It looks like he has fewer people around him at the moment. Have a good time at the conference.
I’m afraid I’ve to leave now. I learnt quite a few things discussing [topic] with you. Thanks.
My friend/ colleague is waiting for me on that side. I need to leave. I enjoyed talking to you. Let’s carry our discussion forward after the event.
2. Intro in a formal event where others too are present
In the first section, we covered one-to-one introduction. However, in many situations such as a meeting, training, and panel discussion, you’re required to introduce yourself in one go without the usual back and forth of a one-to-one conversation.
In such situations, you may broadly cover following points in your introduction:
Designation, organization you represent, how long you’ve been working there, office location, and what does your organization do (unless it is too well-known)
Professional experience related with the theme of the event
Drop anything that’s not relevant. For example, your office location may be more relevant to your introduction in an event where people have come from different cities. Similarly, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t mention your organization if it’s an in-house training with participants from only your organization.
Also avoid personal details such as age, hobbies, and family in introductions in professional settings.
To give an example, here is how Richard Parker introduced himself in a conference:
Hi, my name is Richard Parker. I lead the sales team for Pi Bank in the northern region. I’ve been working in this role for the past two years located here in Delhi. I look forward to meeting representatives from other organizations and learning from their experiences.
If you think providing some details about your experience or your organization can attract potential business opportunities, then you should definitely devote 2-3 lines to it in your introduction.
3. Intro to a sought-after person where you won’t get a second chance
There could be situations where you get just one shot at making an impression through your introduction. You typically face such situations in conferences and other networking events where many participants jostle to get a minute or two with sought-after industry veterans. When your chance comes, make it count.
In such situations, be brief and focus on your most saleable (or distinguishing) point. An example:
Hi, I’m Richard. I lead Pi Bank’s sales team in the north.
I want to quickly introduce you to our new corporate credit card we launched three months back. The new card offers more benefits than other cards in the same category. For example [mention 2-3 top benefits].
Even better if you can talk of those benefits that will resolve a specific pain point of the organization. To pull off such a pitch though, you need to do a thorough research on the organization.
4. Intro in a social gathering where others too are present
In such a gathering, you can also cover personal details in your introduction. Also, like in the case of professional introductions, customize your introduction by bringing in your experience related with the theme of the event.
To give an example, here is how Richard Parker introduced himself in a meetup group on outdoor excursions (meetup groups are interest groups on hobbies, sports, drinking etc.):
Hi, my name is Richard. I lead Pi bank’s sales team in the north region. I’ve been coming to movie watchers and marketing meet-up groups for the past year or so, but this is my first visit to this (outdoors) group. Having taken few hiking expeditions in Himalayas, few day-long cycling trips, and many weekend excursions, I’m quite an outdoor enthusiast. I would love to meet people in the group and participate in outdoor activities organized by the group in future.
If you noticed, Richard talked of his outdoor experience because the group comprises of outdoor enthusiasts. This makes for a customized and more effective introduction.
After the introduction in such gatherings, people usually talk to each other one-to-one. When you get into that phase of the event, you may follow what we discussed in the first section.