Most small business owners and independent business professionals depend heavily on local market visibility and word-of-mouth referrals. For this, you need a killer professional introduction that, over time, created an impression of who you are, what you do, why you do it and who benefits. With consistent repetition, you will become ‘known’ as the go-to person for the area you specialize it.
The traditional method of creating an introduction like this is the ‘elevator pitch’. The term comes from the idea that your delivery should take no longer than it takes to ride an elevator down 10 floors. In today’s reality, that 30-second timeframe is now 20 seconds too long!
While I was raised on the practice of creating elevator pitches, I have come to realize that this approach is no longer as valuable at getting people’s attention for the purpose of building quality business relationships. There are two reasons for this:
1. The average attention span of today’s individual is 8 seconds! If you have not said something that grabs and redirects their attention from their ever present cell phone, you are toast. They hear 8 seconds of something that does not appeal to them followed by 22 seconds of your mouth moving.
2. Businesspeople are sharper today. They are more aware of hype, pitches, advertising and the like. This should be no surprise as we get bombarded with messaging every hour of every day. So, something that sounds like a traditional ‘elevator pitch’ translates into, ‘sales pitch’! No one likes to be sold or set up for a pressurized close on something they aren’t interested in.
Today’s savvy business professional understands that networking should be focused on building relationships, not practicing your sales pitch. So, your introduction needs to be more inviting to the listener for the purpose of exploring a future relationship. The best way to create interest in a way that’s not manipulative is to tell a brief but compelling story. People love stories and when they hear one that resonates with them, they are apt to pay attention for as long as you are speaking.
How to Get Started Writing Your 'Killer' Professional Introduction
Here are a few tips to get you started on creating a killer professional introduction that gets attention and builds relationships.
Tip #1: Focus as much on the ‘why’ as the ‘what’
People today want to understand why you do what you do. They want to how you got into your specialty and why customers chose you over other businesses offering similar products or services. Creating this feeling of what drove you to invest everything to make your business your life’s focus is very attracting to people and shows that you are a committed, all-in professional.
Tip #2: Know your audience
This is the secret for professional speakers, entertainers, politicians and others in the public eye. You simply have to be aware of who you are addressing. If you are used to attending chamber meetings and you get invited to meet a group of industry investors, your introduction needs to change. It doesn’t have to be a wholesale redo, just enough variation so the audience understands how what you do relates to them.
Tip# 3: Start with a ‘pattern interrupt’
This term comes from the advertising field and is a short statement designed to grab the attention of the listener. It could be a rhetorical question, a notable stat about your profession or a shocking piece of information that opens the door for your introduction. Whatever you use, make sure it’s tasteful, professional and supportive of the rest of your introduction. Here’s an example that I use at networking events I frequently attend:
Normally I stand here and tell you about coaching. Today, I’m going to tell you what I really do!
By going in a different direction, people get focused quickly. They’re not entirely sure where I’m going so they hang in there a little longer to find out. That’s a pattern interrupt. I’ve interrupted my usual pattern of introducing myself and it causes people to pay attention.
Tip #4: Finish with a tagline you want people to remember
Taglines are usually a 3-5 word phrase that sums up the value of what you do and serves as a mental reminder for your audience. This is highly effective because after listening to 25+ people stand up and talk about themselves, messages can get blurry and difficult to remember. But if you end your introduction with a well written, sometimes catchy tagline, you will be adding to your brand's recognition over time. Think, "what's in your wallet".
Tip #5: Take advantage of pauses
There’s nothing worse than listening to someone race through their introduction trying to get all their information out before the buzzer goes off. Unless you are John Moschitta of fast talking commercial fame, delivering an introduction in rapid fire fashion completely destroys the message and diminishes the listeners desire to want to know more. Create noticeable pauses (2-3 seconds) to increase importance and confirm the attention you have already captured.
Putting it all together
According to sources smarter than me, the average person speaks 70 words in a 30 second time period. This will give you a framework for constructing your message. Don’t be afraid to stop at 60-65 words if you plan to incorporate tip #5. Believe me, a well written and rehearsed introduction that is delivered with appropriate pace is very powerful.
To get started, answer these 4 questions:
1. Who am I? Don’t diminish this part. Are you an estate planner (boring) or someone who insures clients don’t run out of money after they decide to retire!
2. What do I offer? Avoid the typical menu driven approach that causes people to race through their intro hoping to complete their list of everything they do. Pick your key product or service, something that will connect with the audience and reveal your highest value.
3. Why do I do this? Remember, it’s about your story. Having a brief but novel story validates your choice of occupation and gives people a reason to believe in you.
4. Who benefits? If no one specific benefits from what you do, no one will care. Building great referral relationships depends on others knowing who to look for on your behalf.
Killer professional introductions take time to produce the desired results. Get yours written down, practice it and modify along the way. It’s a journey, not a one time event!
This process is not as easy as it looks. If you are struggling to create an introduction that resonates with your audience, contact Steve for help.
About the Author
Steve provides leadership, management and marketing coaching to business owners, executives and entrepreneurs worldwide. Considered the Catalyst for Change by the California Business Journal, Steve has coached over 400 business professionals to date.