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CRAFTING A PROFESSIONAL INTRODUCTIONPosted by Borst Frank
Having an elevator speech that makes an impact
You’re at a very important meeting with potential customers and everyone in the conference room is taking turns introducing themselves. That evening, you attend a networking event and have to give your elevator speech to the five other people at your table. Every professional must be able to introduce themselves in a clear, articulate fashion. If you’re like me, you’ve never met an audience you didn’t like, so presenting yourself to others comes naturally and with little if any anxiety. Many professionals however, dread making public introductions and often find themselves fumbling for the right words while attentive colleagues watch and listen to every syllable that is uttered. If you’re more like the latter than the former, take heart; you too can make your elevator speech sound effortless. You see, every well-spoken professional has a secret: They’ve prepared their introduction beforehand and have rehearsed it a countless times.
A professional introduction, or elevator speech as it is frequently called, familiarizes the listener with your professional DNA in a way that makes them feel compelled to know more about you. A professional introduction commands attention and makes a lasting impression. It contains nine elements in the following order: A salutation, your name, profession, reputation, accomplishments,
professional role, organization, contribution, and closes with your name. Let’s look at each element in more detail.
Your professional introduction begins with a salutation. It gets the attention focused on you and begins to set the tone for your delivery. Make it succinct – “Hello everyone” or “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen” are effective salutations.
This sounds pretty basic, but state your name slowly and clearly when introducing yourself. This is particularly true when you have a difficult name to pronounce. Don’t be like the person we’ve all heard who half-heartedly mutters his name during introductions!
What is your profession? What is it you do for a living? Your profession is not what your current job is but who you are as a professional whether you are employed or not. Examples include IT Operations Executive, Sales Professional, and Customer Service Representative. Defining your profession is a key ingredient to developing your own professional brand.
What is your professional reputation? What are you known for as a professional? A succinct reputation gives the listener a clear understanding of who you are and what you are professionally capable of. When articulating your reputation, you can choose to present it in the passive or active voice. Examples of the passive voice include “who has a reputation for” or “known for.” It impresses the listener that others think highly of your capabilities; this can be pretty impactful. The active voice is stated as a verb, such as “grows,” “builds,” or “leads.” The active voice communicates that you are a doer and living your reputation. I’ve used both effectively.
Accomplishments are taken from the SARs (Situation, Action, and Result) you develop when communicating to others (typically in an interview format) about your experience. You’ll only need actions and results for your professional introduction. Well-prepared professionals have at least five SARs at their disposal; be ready to use up to three SARs for your professional introduction. I like to
present the results first and action second because that typically makes the most impact for me but the order is entirely up to you.
This is where you share your current position or the role you desire if you are looking for your next opportunity. Be specific if you are in transition so that those who are listening know exactly what you
are looking for.
After sharing your professional role, tell the listener where you are employed or the kind of company you would like to work for if in transition.
This is the statement that communicates how you contribute to your organization’s effectiveness, or how you will impact the next organization you will be working for.
Close your professional introduction by again stating your name. It is the last thing your audience will hear and reconnects the impressive credentials you shared to the competent professional you are.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
So now that you understand the nine elements of a compelling professional introduction, let’s take a look at what it sounds like when we put it all together. Below are two examples of a professional introduction, one as an employed professional and one as a professional in transition. I’ve identified each result and action by “R” and “A,” respectively and shown the active and
passive voice as appropriate.
As an Employed Professional
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, my name is Harry Rogers and I’m a professional development executive who equips (active voice) leaders to achieve high-level performance through others. For example, I worked with a Fortune 100 company CEO to develop an annual goals-setting process (A) that resulted in organizational alignment across five divisions and 2,500 employees (R). For a $50m solar energy company, I created an easy-to-use performance management system (A) that increased productivity by 18% (R). I also helped a social media start-up define its mission, vision, and values (A) which formed the basis for developing their brand and employee value proposition (R). I currently serve as CEO of Impact Introductions, Inc. where I coach professionals on introducing themselves in a compelling fashion. Again, my name is Harry Rogers.”
As a Professional in Transition
“Good morning, my name is Bill Waters and I’m a Senior IT Operations Executive known for (passive) architecting sound and scalable IT solutions. For example, at Deutsche Bank Special Servicing Group I
led an enterprise IT initiative (A) that tripled the banking platform’s capacity to service loans without increasing headcount (R). My group also developed utilization analysis tools (A) that increased call center efficiency by 22% and expanded the array of self-service offerings to its borrowers (R). I also established the bank’s IT disaster recovery plan (A), giving key staff remote access to all mission critical applications in the event of a disaster (R). I am looking for a Director role in IT Operations, Networking
Services or Infrastructure with a progressive financial services organization in Orange County where I can create business value by implementing cost-effective technology solutions aligned with the
company’s strategic long-term vision and performance goals. Again, my name is Bill Waters.”
USING YOUR PROFESSIONAL INTRODUCTION
Now that you have your professional introduction prepared, you’re ready to share it out loud . . . but only with yourself. Practice delivering your introduction. Memorize its key elements. Be prepared to use different actions/results that are tailored to your specific audience or circumstance. Inject a pause or inflection when wanting to emphasize a particular point. Practice your delivery standing up and sitting down so you will be comfortable in either situation. “Work the room” by making eye contact with your audience members. Use body language as part of your communication. Practice in front of a mirror so you’ll see exactly how you come across. Knowing what your introduction looks like ahead of time eliminates the anxiety of what you look like when it’s show time. Build confidence delivering your introduction privately before sharing it publicly.
Professional career consultants say that an elevator speech should be delivered in 30 seconds, so time your delivery for length. Go over every sentence of your introduction to verify that each point is expressed as concisely and clearly as possible. You’ll be amazed how you can shorten your introduction without losing content by focusing ruthlessly on the construction of each sentence. You should know exactly what your introduction can include depending on whether you have 15, 30, 60, or 90 seconds to deliver it.
Here are some suggestions on how to tailor your professional introduction to the amount of time you have:
If you only have 15 seconds or less to make an introduction, forego the salutation and accomplishments. Your introduction will sound something like “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, my name is Harry Rogers and I’m a professional development executive who equips leaders to achieve high-level performance through others. I currently serve as CEO of Impact Introductions, Inc. where I coach
professionals on introducing themselves in a compelling fashion. Again, my name is Harry Rogers.”
Depending on the construction of your introduction, you’ll likely be able to include only two accomplishments;that’s OK. Remember that the purpose of your introduction is to get the listener to engage in further discussion with you. Make it compelling and you’ll be fine.
This is the ideal length of time for the nine-element introduction. In fact, it’s plenty of time, so speak purposefully and pause at key points for emphasis. When well-prepared, you’ll likely not need the
entire minute to deliver your memorable introduction.
90 Seconds and Longer
If you make professional networking a priority, you will find yourself at networking events designed to build community by getting people connected. In this scenario, you’ll likely be given 3-5 minutes for your introduction. Sadly, most people who network in this fashion are ill-prepared for the time they have been given. Some ramble on about themselves without purpose while others have hardly anything to say at all. In either instance, I’m not interested in making a connection. My time has been wasted and I begin to feel frustrated.
But you’re at my table too, and now it’s your turn. You happen to be a professional looking for your next opportunity. I begin to pay attention again because you’re prepared, you speak with confidence,
and you have a pretty interesting story. I put a check next to your name as a reminder to formally connect with you later in the evening or perhaps through LinkedIn. Because we have the extra time, you
also tell us that you’re searching for your next opportunity in Southern California (geographical location), and that you are interested specifically in the biomedical and medical devices industries (target industries). Your research has identified six companies that you are interested in (target companies), and you ask your tablemates for any connections they might have there. You close by offering your assistance in our job searches. I glance at my watch and can’t believe you did that in just a
minute and a half. Impressive.
When you have 90 seconds or more to introduce yourself, give your listeners more information about the company you work for, how they might be able to help you (like vendor or customer recommendations, for example), and how you can assist them. If you’re in transition, let your group know the geographical area of your search (e.g. Southern California), your target industries (the industries you are pursuing employment in) and target companies (the companies you are interested in working for). Ask your group members for any contacts they might have at your target companies, and close your introduction by offering to assist them in their search or business ventures.
You’re now ready to make a compelling introduction regardless of how much time you have. One last thing: When asked to introduce yourself, always ask the host how much time you have to do so. This
will guide you on which version of your professional introduction to use.
We’ve talked about how to prepare and verbally deliver your professional introduction. Your hard work can also be used for written communication as well. For example, show your profession underneath your name on your business card (you should have your own business card in addition to your company card). Incorporate your profession, reputation, and the appropriate SARs when writing a compelling cover letter. Use your professional introduction in an email when writing to a colleague about who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re looking for. Finally, your professional introduction is a great starting point when creating your executive biography (see mine on the next page). As you can see, a
professional introduction is foundational to developing your professional brand, whether it is in verbal or written form.
One last thought: Keep your introduction fresh by mixing up the SARs you use, switching between the passive and active voice, and finding even more effective ways to tell your audience the kind of role you
are looking for. By taking the time to develop each of the nine elements and practicing your delivery, you’ll not only sound like the well-spoken professionals you’ve always admired, you’ll actually be one.
Frank Borst is a C-level business development executive known for growing healthy, profitable companies across a multitude of industries. Frank’s experience encompasses company turnarounds,start-ups, acquisitions, and building global sales channels. His role as an executive includes developing corporate strategy, brand, and culture.
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