A one-size-fits-all response doesn’t work with this question. The best self introduction is the one you are comfortable delivering and that serves your purpose.
How long should your elevator pitch be? Good question! Answer … It depends. Not much of an answer but it depends on the norms or the culture for location or venue of the networking session. Presenting your 30-minute curriculum vitae wouldn’t likely go over well in a round-robin style of group introduction where the expectation is 30 seconds, not 30 minutes.
Many referral networking breakfast/luncheon groups based on the BNI (Business Networking International) model, limit their members to 30 second elevator pitches. The more members, the longer the activity takes, but at least it allows everyone to speak.
The problem is many people get so used to delivering a 30 second infomercial about themselves that they can’t adapt to being given a longer time allotment. Another problem I see often is many people create their elevator pitch around their business or what they do for a living. While that may be great for a business or workplace networking opportunity, not so in a social gathering or perhaps an event that has no connection to their career or profession.
I’m of the belief you should have multiple versions of your self-introduction that you can pull out of your networking toolbox at a moments notice.
Let’s differentiate self-introductions based on large group settings vs one-to-one.
Here is a short excerpt from my book Power Networking for Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro about personal branding and developing your unique elevator pitch. You want to be memorable. The advice provided is in relation to self-introducing to a large group.
Power Networking Logistics:
- Answer the question … “Who am I?”
- Develop a personal brand. What do you want the public to know about you?
What do you stand for?
If you were asked to describe yourself in one word or perhaps a few, what would they be? If I asked a colleague or friend of yours the same question, would they offer the same words you do?
Power Networking Logistics:
- What words would you use to describe yourself?
- Answer the question … “What do I stand for?”
- Ask friends and colleagues in your existing network what words they would use to describe you.
- Ask your friends and colleagues if they believe that you “walk your talk.”
- If they reply “No, you don’t”, what will you now do with this information?
Your unique selling proposition (a.k.a. unique selling point, universal selling point or USP) is a marketing concept used to differentiate yourself from your competitors or others in the market place.
Some good current examples of products with a clear USP are:
- Head & Shoulders: “You get rid of dandruff”
Some unique propositions that were pioneers when they were introduced:
- Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
- FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”
- M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
- Metropolitan Life: “Get Met, It Pays”
Your challenge is to develop a USP that on one hand is short and to the point yet is clear enough it captures the essence of your business and will stick in the mind of whoever you are sharing it with. Having it prepared in advance, believing in it and reciting it with a moment’s notice will go a long way in reducing your anxiety and fear which are all part of shyness.
I would also suggest researching your competitors or others that are in a similar business not necessarily your competitors to see if they have chosen a similar USP as you have. I am aware of two business coaches that chose a USP with only one word that was different. That one word changed the context of the USP but it upset one coach accusing the other of stealing her idea, even though they had been developed independent of each other.
Then there is the one-to-one self-introduction that is commonplace in any networking event. I have seen many people deliver their elevator pitch as described above. And I have done so myself many times. I’ve decided though, that it comes across as rather stilted.
I believe it is much better to develop yet another version of your elevator pitch, a more personal one. This would be used when meeting someone for the first time at a networking opportunity. It should be short and sweet and provide enough information for the other person to get curious and ask you questions. Once again, your introduction should follow the event or situation you are networking in. I like to conclude my intro with a quick question. That allows me to provide further info without sounding like I’m a walking, talking infomercial.
At a Toastmasters function: “Hi there, I’m Rae Stonehouse. I’m a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) and a Past District Governor. I’m from Flying Solo Toastmasters in Kelowna, British Columbia. How about you?”
At a local business networking event: “Hi there, I’m Rae Stonehouse. My business is Okanagan Help4Biz and I provide solutions to problems that many small businesses face. How’s your business going?”
At a different local business networking event: “Hi there, I’m Rae Stonehouse aka Mr. Emcee. I’m a professional cat juggler. Metaphorically speaking of course! As an event organizer I take the hundreds of ideas that are flying through the air when organizing an event and I make sense of them.”
At yet another local networking event: “Hi there, I’m Rae Stonehouse and I’m an author, speaker and speech coach. Do you do any public speaking?”
I would suggest creating several versions of your self-introductions. Try them out. Practice saying them out load in advance, so you are comfortable saying your intro. If it works, use it again. If it is uncomfortable, try changing it a little.
Go forth and introduce yourself …
For further discussion of business & personal networking, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
52 Power Networking Tips: How to Network Like a Pro
Blow Your Own Horn! Personal Branding for Business Professionals
You’re Hired! Leveraging Your Network: Job Search Strategies That Work
Power Networking For Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.