Introducing yourself: Why is it so hard?

Nov 3, 2022 | Strategic communication

Oh no, oh no, oh no… I hope it’s me last!

How many times have you felt this? You know, when a meeting or training session begins with the bright and breezy request to ‘open up by going around the table so we can all introduce ourselves before we start’. Picture the frozen smile on many people’s faces round the table at this point. Honestly, even the most confident participant has some fast choices to make. What information do I include? Do I focus only on the professional? Do I include some personal details or would that look inappropriate? Should I try and be funny? And if the situation is being played out in a foreign language (as has often been my case), well you can multiply the stress levels by at least 10.

So why do we find it so difficult to talk about ourselves in that situation?

The reasons are many and varied, but basically, it’s pretty difficult to know how to pitch things. We all have experience of observing people in this situation to realise just how tricky it is. You know, those who talk for too long, those who seem inappropriately cock-sure, or those who are too obviously shy and belittling of their own achievements.

Obviously, culture and context both play a role in influencing what information should be included, but it helps to think of it in terms of a micro pitch.

You want to say who you are, communicate appropriately for the context and allude to your strategic aims and objectives for being there… and most of all, you want to be remembered for the right reasons.

So, the key is to plan it. 

Have a mental drawer of little introductions you can wheel out according to context. Personal, professional, humorous… In the words of Alexander Graham Bell, ‘before anything else, preparation is the key to success’.

Do you have any happy – or less happy – memories of how you introduced yourself and how it went? What lessons did you learn from the experience?