How to craft the perfect eight-second introduction
I just got off the phone with the ceo of a charitable organisation here in Ireland. He's about to head to the US for a conference which will allow him to meet many potential donors. But most of these meetings will be the "reception or networking" type; casual events that aren't set-up to be formal sales or pitch meetings.
He knows it's essential he introduces himself in a way that is positive, interesting and leaves the other person wanting to know more.
So I had him rehearse his planned introduction for me. Thank goodness. Because his first go simply sounded like he was trying to pack in too much information. There were too many clunky, jargon words. It sounded like more like a brochure and not a relaxed introduction.
Together we re-crafted his introduction so he could quickly give his audience an upbeat, easy-to-understand interesting impression and then move the conversation back to them.
Knowing that there are exceptions to every rule, here's my basic Intro How-To:
1 Write down your first thoughts.
Go ahead. Write whatever comes to your mind about yourself and your organisation. Aim for four components: 1. Hi, I'm (Name), 2. (Title) of (Organisation name). 3. We (What your organisation does). 4, (Question for the other person.)
2 Read that aloud and time it.
Do you sound jargony? Did you just go into company-speak? Assume every person is a lay person and think "conversational". Would your eyes glaze over if you heard someone describe their business the way you're describing yours? Get real and be tough on yourself.
Focus on your timing. You have between 4-8 seconds to introduce yourself and your organisation. I mean it.
Anything more for an introduction and you'll sound forced.
Like my ceo, it's trying too hard. You probably have included superfluous information. People may still be looking at you, but they're likely no longer tuning in.
3 Give that a hard edit.
Okay. Now get out your scalpel or razor and cut! Cut out the jargon, the parentheticals, the disclaimers, the tangents, whatever. Your intro should be high-level and understandable. Go into more detail as the conversation unfolds. Not all at once.
4 Add a superlative - as long as it's interesting and accurate.
Is your organisation the first, the largest, the newest, the something-est? If so, lead with that - in a friendly, not cocky way.
If you have to reach too far for this one, don't force it. But at least consider it. Adding credibility adds interest.
5 Refine and rehearse.
Now re-time yourself. Do you have all four components? Are you under eight seconds? Say it aloud. Say it again. Say it again. Like you mean it. Do you sound effortless and conversational?
Don't forget you'll need to be able to say this without thinking really - as you'll likely be surrounded by other "circles" of people at the conference or networking event. It will be buzzy and noisy.
So you should have this ready to roll. Be memorized but don't sound rote. Make sure you have the question rehearsed.
Of course, it's good to have two or three questions prepared so you don't sound like a single-question robot.
Introducing yourself is not the time to "Give the pitch" or "Position your organisation."
It's your first impression - and even more importantly, it's your chance to begin to get to know the other person. Relationships take time.
Practice doesn't make perfect; practice makes permanent. So make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.
And remember how I opened this article by saying I was working with a ceo? These tips are not only for them. It doesn't matter whether you are the top brass in an organisation or a new hire just starting out. You have goals don't you?
Where do you want to be in six months? Six years? It's largely up to you. Becoming a better communicator will help give you that competitive edge.
I can promise you that as someone who grew up in the tiny rural town of Farmland, Indiana (yes, that's actually the name of the place), I learned a thing or two about crafting and delivering content after the rigours of delivering hundreds of thousands of live-shots during my career with CNN combined with my time as an international campaign strategist. I do not write or talk the same way I did as a girl.
Developing better communication skills is something we can all achieve.
The same way you are developing your competencies in whatever field you work in, you can also start focusing on how to re-train the way you speak about yourself and your work. You can become a more strategic communicator.
Practice doesn't make perfect; practice makes permanent.
So, today, let's start at the beginning. Make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.
Sunday Indo Business