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.
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.
You should get a response from the other person on the following line:
Though unlikely, if the other person doesn’t tell her/ his name, you can ask:
In case, you’re not able to hear the name properly, you can ask:
After exchanging names, you can move to other ice-breaking questions such as:
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.):
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.