PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD: MAKING INTRODUCTIONS WORK
Years back during college, our professor asked us to introduce ourselves in class. It was the first day of class and we were freshmen at UP. I had a classmate who audaciously introduced herself this way (I am removing the name of the person as a respect of her privacy):
“I am __________ from Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University. I graduated with 9 medals!”
It caused a lot of whispering (or maybe uproar!) inside the class, some in awe and some in plain jest. Nevertheless, everyone had a sheepish grin on their faces, me included. It caused another classmate of mine to introduce himself as somebody “with no medals”.
Fast forward into college and into graduation, it is still one of the most often-talked about moments in our student life. I remember her name but hardly remember what she was like as a friend (she was my dorm mate for a brief period of time). One thing for sure was that she was branded for most of our college life.
Making introductions is like selling yourself to people. When you introduce yourself you put your best foot forward no matter what. An expert introducing himself before distinguished guests puts his foot forward by telling something about his professional credentials that will be of interest to the audience, but he cannot do the same introduction before a group of grade school students who might be disinterested by what he does. Similarly, a student speaking before peers should introduce himself by mentioning interests that may connect with his peers’ interests (and hopefully, not sounding like a braggart about it). Although listing down all the medals and achievements attained may be quite impressive to most people, it takes an amount of warm and sincerity to pull off a talk that may be intended to connect with people in a personal way than an introduction that’s intended for a conference of a hundred distinguished people.
Keep in mind the following things when introducing yourself:
- KNOW THE AUDIENCE – is it a big crowd or small one? An academic community or a group of peers? Board room or classroom? You want to connect with people, not put them off. Knowing who your audience are should give you an idea how to tailor fit your introduction to them.
- KNOW THE CONTEXT – is it for a professional conference? Is it for a classroom introduction? For media release? If the event is for professionals, you’d want to introduce yourself as someone who’s been in the field for quite some time. That lends you credibility to be talking in front of people. But if it’s just a simple introduction within a classroom setting, you need to project yourself as a warm and approachable person. To give people your resume-like achievements will tend to drive off people from you.
- KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE – follow the K.I.S.S. Rule (Keep It Short and Simple). People do not want a long list of introductions, especially introduction coming from the horse’s mouth. If there is another person introducing you, that is acceptable; if you’re making your own introductions, it tends to turn off people. Keeping it short keeps people’s interests up. It gives the other person the idea that “this person is not simply thinking about himself”. And guess what? People who keep their introductions short and simple get more people to know more about them.
- DO A FIRM HANDSHAKE IF POSSIBLE – A firm handshake is what business contacts do to seal in an agreement. A good grip is always a sign of sincerity and trustworthiness. But doing a handshake doesn’t always apply. You don’t do a handshake before a audience of pre-schoolers, do you? Again, always determine the context you are in and do the correct practice.
- MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT – Do not lose eye contact with the person you are introducing yourself to. In a bigger audience, maintain that sticky eyes and move your eyes from one person to another slowly. Looking people straight in the eye is always an indication of warmth and sincerity. A person who doesn’t look at you at all doesn’t deserve to be looked at all.
Making introductions doesn’t have to be difficult at all when you know when to use the right introduction. Connection is always the key, and when you know how to do that you’ll be branded–for life.