“Hiiii, I’m Katie and—”
“I’m going to cut you off right there, Katie,” said Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan. I was at an event on fashion careers and networking, and we were in the middle of a Q&A with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff.
“I have a question for all of you,” Coles said to the room. “Why is it that when women introduce themselves, they say their names in a long, drawn-out way and only give their first names? A lot of men I know will say ‘Hello, Bob Jones’ in a very assertive tone, whereas women will just say, ‘I’m Sarah.’”
While I think there are plenty of men who do this, too (Coles was speaking to a room that was vast majority female), her statement touched on something we never regularly think of when we network: our opening line.
Sure, we all know the other basics of networking: Have a firm handshake, make eye contact, don’t fidget, bring business cards. But then we get so focused on making sure to sound interested and ask the right questions that we totally botch the introduction of ourselves.
There’s a lot of debate over the amount of time it takes to make a first impression (scientists would give a technical one-tenth of a second, while business experts say seven seconds), but the bottom line is, you don’t have a lot of time. That crucial introduction takes about five to 10 seconds, and by then, you’ve already subconsciously told somebody else what they want to know about you.
So, what can you do to make sure that your hello gives off the right vibe? For starters, as Coles pointed out, be assertive and sharp with your salutation (it’s proven that “vocal fry,” that creakiness that some people have at the end of sentences, can actually hurt your career). A crisp “hello” or “hi” will do.
Second, give your full name. Your parents gave you a first and last name for a reason; don’t hesitate to use them both. I’ll be real here: The first couple times I tried this, I felt kind of ridiculous. After all, who cares about my full name? But you’d be surprised at how differently people treat you when you say your first and last name. It’s memorable, it’s powerful, and it’s the difference between making a lackluster connection and a surprisingly great one.
So, hello. I’m Lily Herman. Nice to meet you.