As with most questions in life, there is no unique answer. A proper answer, however, should fulfil these three criteria:
- Sound natural and not feel like a rehearsed speech: After all, this is the most foreseeable question in our lives, about a topic we best know and understand: ourselves.
- Be unique to the moment: The answer should be tailored to the circumstances in which this question presents itself. For example, the introduction you give to friends might be completely different to an introduction you give in a more formal business setting. The focus and starting point will very often vary.
- Contain the core content: The most important information should be included in the introduction. Forgetting some important details might make a difference on whether they will remember you and on what type of impression you will leave. What is considered to be core content will, however, depend on the circumstances. In general, three items are of big significance: name, experience and other relevant information.
Your name is important because people will be able to identify you without having to think too hard (this role had already been taken by your parents). Since you already have a name, you want the people you are meeting to know it. Fortunately, in most cases you will agree that the sweetest word is your name and this part of the introduction should be easy.
Sometimes it is helpful to make your name memorable and help other people remember you, even if your counterpart has performed some kind of memory training or is already a memory champion. To achieve this, you can, for example, explain the meaning or origin of your name, relate it to some easily recallable thoughts or give out a name/business card.
- I often explain my name by using the word Ying, which means win in Chinese and therefore my name Ying Ying would actually mean win-win.
- The last name of an ex-colleague of mine was Käsebier. It was easy to recall because we can associate it with other meanings. In this case, Käsebier is formed by two German words, meaning cheese and beer respectively.
- In a huge introduction round where many names are thrown out, the one we will best remember will be that of the person who wrote his/her name down for us, unless we are handed everyone’s name/business cards.
Your story is unique and extremely interesting. Stories are also extremely engaging. If you are asked to elaborate, e.g. in a speech, definitely grab the chance, otherwise I would suggest to select certain points you would want to cover and leave the rest for follow-up questions.
It is better to be succinct than consume too much time. Some people talk excessively and give the impression that it’s all about them. While their experience can be absolutely intriguing, there is a time for everything and for an initial introduction, a short description shall suffice.
At my previous company we actually had job candidates who would talk about themselves non-stop for almost half an hour. This type of behaviour does not necessarily put you on a positive light. Elaborate only if the audience has the interest and intention to listen to you.
While the experiences you have are defined, the way you present them isn’t. You can describe an event from different lights and angles. You will want, e.g. to focus on a particular set of skills at a certain point. You probably do not want to talk about internship experiences, unless you are looking for your first job, in which case it would be important and necessary.
When you go into explaining the functions you have/had, it is better to describe the type of responsibilities rather than use titles. These latter can mean little, especially in start-ups or small companies, where basically everyone is CxO. For example, I could say that: “I coordinate and execute strategy in a Fintech company.”
When the setting allows, it is also suggestible to add the one more thing you do that makes you unique. That one more thing could be what your counterpart is really interested about. Hence, I could say that “I manage operations in a start-up and blog in my free time.” By adding the last bit of information, I open the conversation door to anyone who might be interested in blogs.
As we accumulate more experiences every day, you might want to review your answer regularly by including and updating the information you reveal about your story.
You should also include any other information that is relevant for your audience. If you don’t know what to expect, you don’t need to dive directly into the talking, instead you can start by asking “what aspects of me do you want to know about?” or “what are the objectives of the business meeting?”.
Once you understand the setting, you can add/edit the information you are going to deliver to your public. For example, when I am being introduced to a new team, I can let people know what my participation will mean to them and what changes they might expect. I could, for instance, say: “I will be coordinating this project. If you need x, y, z, I am the right person to talk to.”
Checklist for your introduction
Now that you know how you should introduce yourself, you should try out different versions of it and compare which feels more natural, which sounds better, and which is more suitable for the next meeting you have.
Above all, be sure to be like a chameleon, adapt to the situations and make your intro fit naturally into the conversations. There are of course no perfect presentations, but we can make sure that we deliver the information that will cause the most impact given a particular setting. Good luck!
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