By Dann Albright
Introductions are hard. You’ve probably been asked to introduce yourself at a meeting before — and been struck with a total lack of anything to say. Or been at a party and wanted to make a good first impression, but fell flat.
These situations suck. And a poor introduction can zap your self-confidence for the rest of the interaction. Fortunately, a few tweaks can help you make great introductions. All you need to do is master a few simple tricks.
And in this article, we’ll show you what those things are.
Don’t Make Your Introduction About You
It sounds weird, but your introduction isn’t about you. It’s about the person or people you’re talking to. In a professional setting, this means you’re telling your audience why you’re there and what you can do for them. Focus on an issue they’re having and how you can help them solve it. And, most importantly, about how much better their life will be afterwards.
The conventional wisdom behind this piece of advice is that most people love to talk about themselves. By bringing the focus to another person in your introduction, you play to deeply held psychological tendencies.
Let the other person talk. When you’re introducing yourself in a social situation, don’t make it all about you. Keep your introduction short, and ask questions. You may want to include a lot of details about yourself, but hold back.
If they ask questions about you, great! They’re interested in finding out more about you. If not, continue to let them talk and keep asking questions.
Trick Yourself Into Being Confident
Confidence is crucial for memorable introductions. But if — like me — you’re an introvert, that can cause some problems. Whether you get nervous about meeting new people or you just aren’t confident of your abilities, you can make habits out of a few tricks that not only make you look more confident, but make you feel it, too.
Smile. Do your absolute best to put on a genuine smile. You don’t need to show all your teeth or look like you’re ecstatic. Keeping a positive facial expression will improve our confidence and encourage other to mimic you. More on that in a moment.
Slow down. If introducing yourself makes you nervous, there’s a good chance you start talking really fast. That can make you hard to understand and emphasize your nervousness. Take a deep breath and remind yourself to slow down.
Make eye contact. Avoiding people’s gaze makes you look meek and nervous. Make a point to establish solid eye contact throughout your interaction, and you’ll appear much more confident.
Use Psychology to Your Advantage
You might have noticed that we tend to mimic the people that we’re paying close attention to. If you nod while you introduce yourself, you get your interlocutor into a “yes-saying” frame of mind. Another example is that the human brain doesn’t like to miss information. Add a touch of mystery in your introduction and get people to engage.
For example, I often say “I’m a writer” when someone asks me what I do. People almost always follow this up with “What kind of writer?” or something quite similar. They’ve now invested in the conversation. Leaving some information out and encouraging someone to ask a question is a great way to get the conversation going.
Maybe you’re a support desk IT technician. You could simply say “I work with computers.”
A contractor might say “I build things for a living.”
If you’re an elementary art teacher, you could just say “I’m a teacher.”
Think about how you can pique someone’s interest with a vague open ended description of what you do. The person you’re introducing yourself to will, consequently, be more interested in you right away.
There are even smaller hacks you can apply, too. Try these three tips as a social experiment next time.
1. Like chewing gum. According to High Existence, the human brain assumes that you’re relatively safe if you’re eating. This is an evolutionary holdover from days when eating in a disadvantageous situation could mean death.
2. Assume the person you meet is your next best friend. Redditor SithLard says that it helps to change your body language and the comfort factor when introduced. Believe in this old wisdom: “strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.”
3. Skip the introduction altogether. Use another conversation starter and then circle back to the introduction later. A good conversation starter can be “I promised myself I will make new friends here.” Also, remember that a humorous way to break the ice works every time.
If you just want to gain confidence in introducing yourself to people in social situations, and not professional ones, practicing your introductions might seem like overkill. But practice is the best way to get better at something.
Your practice doesn’t need to be formal. You don’t need to ask a friend or family member to listen to your introduction and give you feedback (though this type of role play is a good idea if you’re working on a professional introduction).
But give your introduction some thought. When you know you’re going to introduce yourself soon, run through a couple options in your head. It’ll only take a moment, and it can give you a confidence boost. It’s much easier to introduce yourself if you have any idea of what you’ll say.
Spend a few minutes thinking about how you can best introduce yourself. This can make a big difference the next time you’re trying to make a connection. This is true in both professional and social situations. Think about the points above: focus on your audience, develop good habits that make you feel more confident, and use some psychological hacks.