Like you, I attend my fair share of meetings. As a consultant, I’m often meeting with people I’ve only laid eyes on for the first time just moments before and, almost always, I’m asked to introduce myself to them.
“Lisa, tell us a little bit about yourself.”
Why is this little question so hard to answer? Perhaps because we are complicated and we’re being asked—usually on the spot—to make ourselves sound simple. Or maybe because there’s an element about it that always makes me feel like I’m supposed to be selling myself.
Meeting introductions are easy to master, though, so today we’re talking about how to do it well.
Tip #1: Communicate Your Contribution
This may sound like an obvious thing to do, but the truth is that I end up in a lot of meetings where introductions sound a little like this one:
“Hi, my name is John Miller and I am the VP of Marketing at Concept Management Northeast, just outside of Boston.”
I’m always left thinking, “That’s nice, John, but I could have gathered all of that information from your business card.” It doesn’t tell me why he’s been asked to help run a leadership conference in Atlanta, the planning of which is the reason for the meeting in the first place. By adding about 20 carefully prepared extra seconds, John’s introduction could be 20 times more informative and interesting.
“Hi everyone, my name is John Miller. I’ve got 15 years’ worth of experience marketing conferences like this one to vendors, colleges, and HR departments. What I am good at, and the reason why I’m here, is getting the right people, businesses, and great ideas in a room together. I’m not good on details; that’s why I work with Tim. I promise that I’ll get people excited about the conference and the gifts and talents of everyone else in this room will take over from there. I’m looking forward to working with all of you.”
With this introduction, I feel like it’s very clear what to expect from John.
Tip #2: Set Yourself Apart. Be Memorable.
Introductions happen so often that those short attention spans of ours come to bear, even in this shortest of activities; since repetition makes people tune out almost immediately, make your introduction memorable.
How you are memorable depends, of course, on the group. Emphasize what others will get from you. They don’t care so much about the name of your company or even what you do there. They care about what it means to them.
In John’s example above, notice that he didn’t even mention his title or company name. He went right for why he was a valuable member of the group. He also mixed in equal parts humor and humility; a brew that will put the people around him at ease and help them to remember him after the meeting adjourns.
Tip #3: Communicate Culturally
By culture, I mean both local culture—it’s usually perfectly acceptable for a Seattle-based programmer to come to a meeting in jeans, but in Miami it almost never is—and also international culture. As homogenized as the planet has become, we still have some very big differences.
For instance, I often speak about the benefit of adding humor to public speaking. If you are introducing yourself to a group of strangers, I caution you to be careful on this one. Since people begin to form an opinion within a few seconds of meeting you, humor can be risky because it can easily offend. Even if it isn’t offensive, it may fall on deaf ears. Bottom line: If you’re unsure about the group, consider leaving the funny story out.
Thinking internationally applies whether you are sitting in a meeting halfway around the world or in a meeting with folks who traveled halfway around the world to be in the room with you. Know what’s polite and, equally important, what’s considered rude. For example, in Asia business cards carry more importance and are formally exchanged at the beginning of a meeting.
So meeting introductions are fairly easy if you follow three simple rules. Communicate your contribution. Tell everyone clearly why you’re there. Then give them some way to remember you. And finally, be sensitive to cultural nuance.
“I’m Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. I can help you or your organization improve productivity through my workshops, consulting, or keynote speeches. I’m passionate about communication and your success is my business.”
How’s that for an intro? Or, in this case, an outro! (Yes, there really is something called an outro!)
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