Monday, June 27, 2011

From the vault: How to introduce yourself without bragging

(Editor's note: I've updated this classic post and made it more comprehensive, so it's more of an all-in-one you can use to shape how you meet your audience.)

It's one thing when you're introduced by someone else. But what if you have to introduce yourself?

This isn't as rare as it may seem. In many of my professional organizations, time is set aside for a round-robin of self introductions, as in "Let's each introduce ourselves briefly to the group before our speaker begins." In this case, audience members are introducing themselves. If you're the main speaker, you may need to fill in if the moderator, host or organizer is out of the room or otherwise absent. In many ways, I find it preferable to introduce myself, but it takes some finesse. Here's how to handle making yourself known to a group:
  • Dial it down just enough: When someone else introduces you, it's fine for them to emphasize your big award or recent honorific. Just don't do it yourself, unless you do so obliquely. You'll score bigger points if you summarize your credentials succinctly and sparingly. If you know ahead of time that you'll be doing a self-introduction, make sure the audience has a printed bio--also short--or that you've supplied the group with a short standard bio to post online.
  • Take charge of your intro: Use humor, be selective, and chisel those introductory words to explain why you're here today--immediately, you'll stand out. At a networking meeting, being precise about what you're looking for today sets up instant topics of conversation for you.
  • Crowdsource your bio: For the brave and well-friended, ask your audience to help you. Pick three colleagues (ideally, prep them ahead of time) and ask them to say one reason the group should know you....or one thing they should know about you.
  • Reflect your audience: Taking an informal show-of-hands poll of the audience is an excellent way to get your group's attention in many situations. If you start with a poll before you introduce yourself, you'll look confident--and can use what you glean from the respondents to share information about yourself, keying what you say about yourself to the group's mood and preferences.
  • Get serious about your introductions: On the don't get caught blog, I share how to write a suite of introductions of varying lengths. You'll want these to provide to anyone introducing you--and one of them should be written in case you have to use it about yourself.
And, as always, be brief and relevant. If you're speaking about an area where you have a particular experience, share it...briefly. Use your introduction to connect to your audience and they'll thank you for introducing yourself.

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