Introducing yourself professionally—it should be a simple and straightforward thing to do. But so many of us struggle with how to do it right, and not come off as too awkward, over eager, aggressive, or meek. So, whether you’re prepping for a networking event, workshop, conference, or interview, here are some tips on how to appropriately connect with others and communicate your value effectively and naturally in a way that makes people like and remember you.
What You Need to Do to Make the Proper Introduction
How to Act: Understanding Body Language and Social Mannerisms
In any situation, begin with gentle eye contact. It shows you’re present, open, and engaged in the conversation, and that you’re giving attention to the person you’re interacting with. If looking someone in the eyes is more challenging for you, look at the point between their eyebrows, remembering to look away and blink occasionally to keep it natural.
In addition to eye contact, your facial expression is important. When greeting someone new, show your smile in a genuine way to facilitate a warm interaction. Your posture and body language also need to communicate your openness and confidence. Stand erect with your head high, without slouching or folding your arms.
When introducing yourself to someone new, exchange names first. If it’s appropriate, include your last name and title as well. After you say your name, ask for theirs, and repeat it back to them. Repeating their name, like “Nice to meet you, Chrissy,” will help you remember their name and adds a personal touch to the greeting.
Offer a handshake or an equally appropriate greeting, remembering to keep it brief and not too firm or loose. If you find you have sweaty palms, wipe them on a piece of your clothing before offering your hand. If you’re networking, continue with asking your connection about what they do or who they are looking to meet to keep the conversation flowing. If it’s at an interview, be ready to answer questions.
At the end of the conversation, make eye contact again, thank the other person for their time, remembering to mention their name, of course, as well as offer a business card if you have one, exchange any other relevant information, and say goodbye.
What to Say: Crafting Your Elevator Pitch
Now that you know how to act, it’s important to use your voice to also tell your story. When talking about yourself in a professional setting, you should have a few sentences prepared that summarize who you are, your work, and your objectives. For starters, be sure to mention some, or all, of the following:
Who you are
What you do
How you do it
Why you do it
Who you do it for
What success looks like for you
For an interview, balance advance preparation, like researching the company and practicing standard questions, with the ability to think (and respond) on your feet. Be sure to strike that balance of professionalism and personality that doesn’t feel over-scripted, and demonstrate that you are thoughtful and engaging. Check out another blog post of mine for scripting on personal introductions for interviews.
I’ve noticed qualified professionals tend to stumble when talking about themselves, not because they’re unprepared, but because we're often bad at speaking about ourselves in positive, confident terms. Instead of making a concise, engaging introduction, an intro becomes a meandering, disjointed stream of consciousness. Your personal introduction is something you'll want to practice over and over again, so it feels natural and confident, in any context.
Finally, don’t forget that personal introductions while at a networking or other social event require engaging with the other person about them. As the conversation professes, ask prompting questions such as:
“Who are you trying to connect with tonight?”
“How did you get into your current field?”
“What do you love most about what you do?”
Notice that these are open-ended questions that will get the other person talking about themselves, and provide you the opportunity to make a lasting impression and forge a deeper connection during the interaction.
Putting it All Together: A Proper Professional Introduction
As far as conversations go, speaking and body language fit together in a seamless flow, unlike the way I’ve broken them out above. However, there is a natural order for the most part, so if introducing yourself is a nerve-wracking experience where you forget social convention, follow these steps to move the introduction along.
Make natural eye contact and smile.
State your name and ask for theirs.
Repeat their name back to them.
Offer a handshake.
Explain a little bit more about yourself, what you do, and your objectives.
If networking, use the conversation to learn about them.
Close the conversation by repeating their name.
Now that you have the tools to introduce yourself confidently, you can focus more on creating and maintaining those strong professional relationships and telling your unique story so people will remember you.