Updated: Jan 3, 2020
Take a minute to think about your favorite album (or for those of us that aren't wanting to acknowledge how old we are, favorite playlist). I would guarantee that a very large percentage of us can name the first song on that album or playlist. Why is that? Well, it's because that artist took time to make sure that what they led with would be something that you would remember for a very long time. It's not easy to choose a favorite album but at the moment (and for the sake of this Blog) "Can You Feel It" is playing in my mind. Thank you Jacksons for leading with a song on your Triumph album that definitely left a lasting impression!
WHY THIS TOPIC FOR THE FIRST BLOG
Interesting enough, this is a topic that continues to come up with clients and in an advisory board that I serve on that focuses on the challenges that high school students are facing as they move closer to going off to college and starting careers. Many people fear just how relaxed our culture has become with the basics of communication: composing a well written message; how to approach a new contact; identifying when it is appropriate to "let your hair down" and many other areas of focus. Yes they are what some what consider to be Communication 101, however it is slowly becoming a lost art. So as I looked at introducing myself and this Blog I thought, it only makes sense to start with what makes a great introduction.
Making an introduction seems so simple, right? Even as I sat down to write this entry I found myself to be on complete brain overload. Where do I start? What information do I want and need to convey to you? How do I ensure that I maintain your interest? Why do I need to provide an introduction in the first place? Even those of us who have written thousands of intros for ourselves and others, stood in front of large groups of people (some we knew, some we didn't know) to as I put it "get the party started, the truth is that we all have the same dilemma. As cliche as it may sound I keep one key component in mind with any introduction: Be Yourself!
No matter if it is a written or in person introduction, "being yourself" can be a very tricky thing. As people, we have a natural instinct to try to figure out what the other person or audience is looking for. Some people go for the Saturday Night Live audition approach and test their stand up comedy routine while others evoke the "let's get this over with" theme by running down the list of bullet points, facts, figures and rush back to their seat. Audiences, rather they can see you or not, are perceptive and can tell if you are trying too hard or not trying at all. So, how do we find the right balance of information and personality?
WHERE TO START?
The simple answer is "the beginning" but starting in general is most important. It is best that you start where you are most comfortable. If the introduction is written, it is a great idea to brainstorm on the points that you want to include. This is also a good way to make sure that your thoughts are concise. For some, starting with the facts is ideal as they want to get straight to the point. Others choose to start with a story relative to their background or experience. No matter the method, you want to focus on capturing the attention of the audience I am an advocate of making sure that you hit the nail on the head however an introduction never hurts. More importantly, it is best to make sure that the reader knows that you respect their attention. Proofreading for errors (spelling and grammar) is at times overlooked in messages. In marketing, we spend a good amount of time paying attention to detail which includes presentation. I can spot someone who takes time to craft an introduction versus someone who is just rushing along. Time is valuable, but so is the presentation and the finished product.
SOLID INTRO = SOLID FIRST IMPRESSION
A good first impression goes a long way, especially in person. People will tend to recall how you presented yourself, how well you spoke, and how interested you were in the conversation. I speak to young people all the time and impress upon them just how important it is to think about their interaction with others. Was your attention elsewhere? Did you assume that the way that you talk to others (friends, family, etc.) would be acceptable to the person you were talking to? I have had a number of people from all walks of life that I am guessing assumed that because of some of my outward appearance and features that they could talk to me as if they have known me for a long time. Slang terms or getting comfortable "too quickly" can be harmful to a positive first impression. Make no assumptions about the other individual or audience during your introduction. Be yourself but keep in mind who the other person is as well.
DEVELOPING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE
Being yourself is really about personal style which is what I advise in making an introduction. As a rule of thumb I strive to make sure that the listener (or reader) gets a good feel for who I am as a person. I take my cue from someone that I believe was trained in personal introductions. I have an aunt who is known for her ability to connect with people, speak with a tone that commands an audience, and sprinkles in just the right amount of humor that keeps you interested. I have listened to her give introductions at family reunions, anniversary ceremonies, board advisory meetings, luncheons and more. The kicker is that the same tone that she uses when making an introduction is how she communicates with our family on a daily basis. That's her style, and it works! For years I have heard responses from the audience and people telling her that she did a great job with her introduction.
INTERACTION VS. TRANSACTION
Yes, there is a grey area here. I raise the point after a conversation I had with a university professor as she discussed the anxiety that her class addressed when looking at networking, conversation, and building relationships. In our discussion of topics that I would present to her class, she advised that many of her students felt like they needed to find out what the individual that they were talking to had to offer or what they needed to convey to the other individual. While transactions can be intellectual exchange, you should strive for a positive interaction between you and other individual or audience. Spending time thinking about what you can do for the other person or what they can do for you can water down the potential of the relationship. Setting the tone of being one sided or mutually beneficial is very important. This goes hand in hand with not getting worked up if the interaction does not happen immediately. Many people take time to evaluate their interaction with you afterward. Given that they had a positive experience, they will often reach out a later time and request time to discuss other opportunities.
Yes you could envision the closing arguments on a memorable episode of Law & Order SVU (I once had a woman correct me in Target for a Freudian slip of saying "Law & Order SUV" to which I replied, "that's their latest spin off series"). My biggest takeaway that I advise is that you make sure that you create an opportunity or at least express interest of staying in touch. Whether written or verbal, you always want to thank the other party and invite them to remain in communication. I learned early that you should ALWAYS have a business card on you. You never know when or where you may need one and it really takes your personal brand to the next level when you show that you are prepared for future opportunities. If you do not have a business card on you, other options include inviting the other individual to connect on LinkedIn or other professional development apps. I receive requests to connect on Facebook or Instagram however this is up to your discretion. Keep in mind that you want to make a positive first impression. Connecting with someone through personal pages on social media can give the wrong impression. Always look at the end game which includes staying ahead all four quarters and not just sinking a three pointer at half time.
Introductions happen every single day! How you approach them can make a big difference in the quality of the interactions that you experience. Finding the balance between personalizing your intro and making a strong, long lasting, positive first impression can take time to tailor but is very important to your personal and professional brand. Remember that the song that you lead with should be one that makes your audience want to turn up the volume and put it on repeat even once they've listened to every track that you present. If you're interested in more information on creating a strong introduction for your brand, contact us today.