How do you feel when you have to introduce yourself at a networking meeting? Confident and comfortable? Or nervous, awkward or even mortified?
When speaking at a recent networking event, I asked if anyone was feeling, or had previously felt nervous about introducing themselves at a networking meeting. All hands went up. So if that’s you, be assured you are in good company.
Many people feel awkward about ‘selling’ themselves. That point at a networking event where you have to stand up and introduce yourself can be daunting.
What do I say? What do I talk about? What do I not include? How do I make it clear and compelling? How do I stop myself from waffling on – or worse, freezing up?
You only have a short amount of time, whether it’s a speedy 15 seconds, a formal 60 seconds or a flexible couple of minutes. The purpose of your networking introduction is not to give a full low down of your business, its history, your range of services and all the reasons why someone should buy from you. Neither is it to just say something and get it over and done with. The point of introducing yourself at a networking meeting is to generate conversations, so that you can start to build relationships, both at the meeting and following up afterwards.
With that in mind, here are my three key ingredients to delivering great networking introductions with clarity and confidence:
It’s useful to be able to tell people what you do, but often it just serves the purpose of labeling. It tells people which box they can put you in. Accountant. Graphic designer. Work with kids. Crafty person.
Of course this can be useful if someone is specifically looking for an accountant, or knows someone who is. But it doesn’t necessarily speak to all those people who are losing sleep over the tax man, who are trying to ignore the growing pile of receipts shoved in that drawer, or who have just hired a new member of staff and haven’t quite worked out how to do the payroll.
This is where purpose comes in. It about going beyond explaining the function of what you do, to showing the benefits, results and value of what you do. It’s where your business stops being a label on a box, and starts to come alive. Even the language you use to describe purpose tends to be active and moving rather than static.
So how do you convey purpose in a matter of seconds? I like to boil it down to this ‘in a nutshell’ sentence:
I help ______ do/have/be ___________ by ______________.
You’ll notice this requires you to ask yourself several key questions:
Identify who you serve: Yes, it’s that old marketing chestnut. Who’s your target market? Who’s your ideal client?
What problem do you solve: What are they complaining about? What keeps them awake at night? What painful, annoying, sleep-depriving problem do you help them to solve?
When you name the problem, you strike an instant connection with those in the room who are suffering from it, and you pinpoint the symptoms and complaints that others in the room will be able to recognise.
How do you add value: How do you help them solve this problem? What value do you add? How do your customers benefit from buying from you?
Use these questions to help you put together your nutshell statement. Notice the difference between these two:
“I am a graphic designer. I design business cards…”
“I help business owners beam with pride when promoting their business by designing outstandingly gorgeous business cards they can’t wait to hand out.”
You could then continue to expand on the problem:
“So later in the meeting, when you are swapping business cards, I’d like you to look out for those people who are reluctant, embarrassed or even apologetic about their business cards!…”
Your purpose is about communicating clearly. Your passion is about engaging people. Hearing someone talk passionately about anything brings it to life. Even if the subject itself isn’t particularly engaging, a passionate speaker will hold your attention.
What do you love about what you do? What gets you fired up? What spurs you on?
It could even be something negative – what gets your goat? What infuriates you about your industry? Perhaps overpriced websites, overcomplicated technology, unscrupulous marketing, outdated time management or even boring legal talk!
Share your story
Give people a taste of the story behind your purpose. How did you come to invest in this as a business. What’s your compelling reason behind why you do what you do? In a 60 second introduction, this isn’t going to be the whole story in detail, but you can give a hint to spark that conversation later on. It’s amazing how few words it can take to start a story.
Share other people’s story
If you shy away from blowing your own trumpet, then let other people’s words do it for you. Share testimonials from happy clients, give examples of the work you’ve done and describe the journey:
- Before – What was their situation? How were they feeling?
- You – What did you do for them?
- After – What’s different as a result? How are they feeing now?
We all do things differently. What makes us memorable and different from the crowd is often how we do things rather than what we do. There are very few entirely original products, services or business ideas. Most things have been done before. But no one will ever do it quite the way you do it.
Do you excel at seeing the big picture? Or are you meticulous with the details? Are you bold, dynamic and outspoken? Or are you quiet, calm and thoughtful? Do you have a knack for inspiring people or taming systems? Are you direct and no-nonsense or patient and supportive?
It may be logical that a health and safety consultant would have great attention to detail, but if as a health and safety expert you happen to be a gifted, enthusiastic and inspiring speaker, that could make you a great health and safety trainer!
Patience would surely come in handy for a driving instructor. But equally, some people respond better to the direct, no-nonsense approach!
How do your personality traits enable you to do what you do well? How do you play to your strengths? Who would this particularly appeal to?
After all, networking is about building relationships. So smile. Be you. Be human. That’s who we connect with.