It’s human nature to judge, both consciously and unconsciously. As much as we like to believe that we’re in complete control of our thoughts, we all make snap assessments of others in a matter of seconds. In fact, a series of studies published in Psychological Science suggests that we assess traits like trustworthiness in just 1/10th of a second. So if you want to start building your reputation, you have to recognize the importance of first impressions.
Whether you’re meeting someone in a virtual interview or at a networking event, it’s important to know how to introduce yourself to set the right tone for your conversation and make a good first impression.
You're bound to meet new people — it could be when you start a new job, meet a friend’s colleague at an event, or have client meetings. And you don't want to stumble over simple facts such as who you are and what you do.
Fair or not, how you act when first meeting someone will affect how they view you moving forward. Making the most of your self-introduction will allow you to form a rapport and build relationships with coworkers, upper management, and clients.
In order to keep your audience engaged, your introduction must be relevant to them. For example, if you were to go to a networking event, you likely wouldn’t begin by word-vomiting your entire career experience. Instead, you would introduce yourself briefly, offering your name, role, and organization. But if you were interviewing for a job at your dream company and got the classic “Tell me about yourself” to kick off the conversation, you’d give a lengthier answer delving into your past and present work experience and how that ties to this next step you’re so excited about.
When introducing yourself, it’s important to share highlights of your professional background. Keep this part of your introduction clear and concise. Leave your high school lifeguard job out of the conversation and focus on your relevant career experience from the last five years. Explain what roles you’ve worked recently, what job you have now, and/or your achievements along the way. Exactly what you share and in what level of detail, however, will depend on the situation.
Making eye contact and having a firm handshake, a strong stance, and a smiling face, for instance, all convey a sense of confidence. When you act confident you’ll start feeling more confident — and eventually others will perceive you as such. Visualize yourself having the exchange the way you want it to take place — take note of how you want to present yourself during your introductions and then practice doing it with your words and your body language.
Remember that this isn’t a one-way conversation — you and the person you’re conversing with should have equal opportunity to talk. So after you’ve given your brief career introduction, be curious and ask them about their background to allow the conversation to flow naturally. Throughout the conversation, repeat the names of those you’re conversing with to keep them interested.
Lastly, demonstrate your desire to help by offering to make connections or send relevant resources, inviting people to conferences, providing recommendations, and generally telling the person through your actions and follow-ups that you’re thinking of them.
Rehearse with your friends, parents, and anyone who will listen so that you can be sure you’re introducing yourself, and what you want, in an articulate way. Practicing in front of an audience will allow you to receive feedback and adjust accordingly before the real pitch.
While you'll keep certain elements the same, you'll want to tweak a few details for each interaction to ensure you make the best possible impression. Below, you'll find five common scenarios and exactly how you can introduce yourself in each.
For an in-person interview, follow these three steps.
1. Stay off your phone while you wait in the lobby or interview room. You'll want to stay calm and aware; it's jarring (and a little embarrassing!) to find an outstretched hand coming toward you when you're buried in your phone scrolling through Instagram.
2. Give a firm, confident handshake and smile as you say, "Thank you for meeting with me today," or a simple, "Hi, [insert name], I'm [insert name]. Pleasure to meet you!"
3. Oftentimes your interviewer will start off by saying, "Tell me about yourself."
This is where your prepared talking points come in handy. The ideal mix is to give a bit of your background and then bring things to the present. You might say:
"Absolutely! My passion is creating amazing customer interfaces. I have eight years of graphic design experience, including time spent at Oceanside Design Studios and Hollywood Interiors. I transitioned to UX/UI when I realized how satisfying it is to create high-functioning user experiences. . While I've enjoyed my time at Sunnyside Designs, I'm looking for opportunities to apply my skills and experience at a mission-driven organization that’s focused on making change in the community, which is why working on FoodAccess’s mission to eliminate food deserts is such an exciting prospect.”
Most people at networking events are just as uncomfortable as you are, even if they seem like seasoned pros. No one likes standing around by themselves, so practice approaching and introducing yourself at these types of functions. Here’s how:
1. Pick who you’d like to approach.
2. Pump yourself up. Remind yourself that you're a friendly, interesting (insert whatever adjectives you want) person and you're excited to meet someone new.
3. Approach your person, smile (or at the very least look friendly!). If the person was a speaker, or if you know something about them (perhaps you have a mutual acquaintance), you can make your introduction more tailored.
It might sound like this:
“Hi, I’m Joanne Bell, I’m a human resources specialist. I enjoyed your presentation on how companies can become employers of choice by creating strong office cultures. I’d love to learn more about how health benefits play a part in this — would you be willing to tell me a bit about how you think about health benefits in this context?”
Whether you know all your colleagues or not, talking a little bit about your role in the company before you start a presentation helps provide context for your coworkers (and makes you look put together). Follow the steps outlined below to look like a pro.
1. Explain what you do for the company and why you're presenting.
2. Set expectations for how long your presentation will last and whether you'll take questions as you go along or prefer them at the end.
3. Get started!
For example, you might open with:
Good afternoon! I'm Brianna Veale, and I am the director of customer marketing. For the next 30 minutes, I'm going to talk to you all about how my team plans to coordinate this quarter’s client events. If you think of a question, please jot it down and wait until the end to ask so we can keep the momentum going.
The steps you'll follow for introducing yourself at a meeting are very similar to what you should do before a presentation.
1. Give your name, department, and role at the company. You may think that everyone already knows who you are, but you never know who needs a reminder. So you might start with: Good morning! I'm [name]. I am the [your role/function] here at [Company].
2. Provide the estimated end time for the meeting, the outcomes/decisions you hope to arrive at, and any other who, what, when, where, and why establishing details. So you’d add something like: Our hard stop is [insert time]; by then, I'd like us to [insert desired meeting end results — this is usually a decision needed by the group] and decide on a follow up for [any other tasks].
3. Have your meeting!
Your intro could sound like this:
Good morning! I’m Aya Tanaka and I am the lead sales manager here at Buzz Inc. Our hard stop this morning is at 9:30; by then, I’d like us to come to a decision on how we can implement active listening techniques into our client meetings.
Introducing yourself to a client can feel a little daunting. It’s important to conduct pre-research on the client and their goals in advance, so ask a coworker who’s worked with the client before to tell you about the relationship and the client’s goals for the future. When you make the introduction:
1. Address the client by name.
2. Tell them briefly who you are and what your role is going forward.
3. Get specific about the client’s goals with something like: I’ve heard from [Coworker who has worked closely with the client] that you’re planning to focus on [client’s previously stated goal] this year. I’d love to talk about how we can work together to make this goal a reality.
It might go like this:
Hi Derek! I’m Hannah Solane and I recently joined Merch & Co. as the senior merchandise lead. I’ll be your point of contact going forward. Sita Sharma has told me that you’re planning to focus on the womenswear sector this year. I’d love to talk about how we can work together to make your goals a reality.