Self-introduction. Elevator speech. Ten-second introduction. Thirty-second commercial. Whatever you call it, you need one to be an effective marketer, salesperson, or even job-seeker. Here are six tips to creating one that produces the results you are seeking.

Get noticed

1. There’s a difference between a 10-second introduction (self-introduction) and a 30-second commercial (elevator speech). By my definition, the 10-second intro is a concise summary of what you do that can be used when you shake someone’s hand, stand up to introduce yourself briefly to a group, or call someone on the phone. In the formula I use for composing intros – the benefits oriented introduction — it contains just one key benefit to get people’s attention, plus a simple title or label for what you do. (There’s more about this below.)

A 30-second commercial, on the other hand, shares more about what you do, who you do it for, the products and services you offer, and/or your competitive advantage. You might use this when leaving your first voice mail message with a prospect or referral source, introducing yourself as a speaker, at a leads or networking group where this longer format is expected, or to lead off a sales presentation.

I find it useful for most entrepreneurs and salespeople to have both forms of introduction handy.

2. Your introduction should be composed with generating referrals in mind, not just on attracting any clients who might be present. It’s more important in my view to have an intro that a 12-year-old could understand and repeat than to have one that pinpoints your specialty to someone in the know. You are statistically much more likely to be speaking to a potential referral source than a prospective client at any particular moment.

Even better is to have two 10-second intros in your pocket — one that you use when you don’t know who you’re speaking to, and one that you use when speaking to someone who you already know understands your specialty.

3. In the benefits-oriented introduction formula, you lead with a key benefit and statement of who your clients are, then provide a label or title that identifies your profession. If your listener won’t have a chance to ask you questions about what you do immediately after hearing your intro, including all three pieces of information will help people remember and “file” you appropriately, whether it’s to refer you a client or hire you themselves.

Here are some examples:

“My name is Peter Marconi and I provide Chicago financial services firms with persuasive tools for winning new clients. I’m a marketing communications consultant.”

“I’m Carmen Sanchez, and I help working mothers take practical steps toward living a more fulfilling and balanced life. I’m a life coach.”

“I’m Fred Patel, and I deliver talented, high-caliber professionals to fill essential positions at information technology companies nationwide. I’m an executive recruiter.”

4. Keep in mind that your introduction will not always be used in interactive situations. If you are shaking someone’s hand or speaking with them live on the phone, you can use an intro that is intended to provoke curiosity or questions. But if you are using your intro to stand up and introduce yourself to a group (networking meeting, leads group, etc.), or to begin a letter, email, or voice mail message, it’s more effective to develop an intro that gives the listener a category to “file” you under.

For an example of how this works, imagine you are currently in the market for someone to create a logo and business cards for you. Person A leaves you a voice mail message that says, “My name is Angela and I help people like you get more clients. Please call me.” Person B leaves you a message that says, “My name is Sam and I help small businesses get noticed. I’m a graphic designer.”

My bet is that even though neither of them mentioned logos or business cards specifically, you would be likely to call Sam back and not Angela. I would also bet that if you heard both Angela and Sam introduce themselves at a networking group, and you had no need for their services but the next day someone asked you to recommend someone to create their new business card, you might remember Sam from his intro, but wouldn’t think of Angela.

This type of mental “filing” by category is how most people’s brains work. If you’re crafting an intro for use in this type of one-way communication, I’d recommend including your own filing label.

5. In the benefits-oriented format, you state a key benefit of your services (and if possible, your target market) before naming your profession. There are two reasons for including a benefit like this and for saying it first. The first purpose is to position you in the minds of your listeners as you would like to be positioned, before they make up their own minds about you. If you simply say you are a graphic designer, business attorney, or communications consultant, without giving your listeners any other details, they categorize you as they please. But if you also name a benefit you provide your clients, they can determine much more about whether they or someone they know might be able to use you.

The second reason is to make your introduction memorable. This is why you might choose to make your benefit sound almost like a tagline. If you go to a networking event and meet three different accountants there, you are much more likely to remember the one who said something clever or relevant than the others who simply told you what they do for a living. Years ago, I would regularly run into an accountant at local events who always introduced herself this way: “My name is Cathy Cheung, and I love taxes! I’m a CPA. Call me at tax time, and I’ll help you save money.” I probably haven’t seen Cathy in 15 years now, but I still remember her.

6. Whatever you choose to say should sound and feel authentic when coming from you. If you are a naturally enthusiastic, high energy, or humorous person, superlatives and catchy phrases can be quite appropriate. If you are understated, conservative, or serious, your introduction should reflect that instead.

There’s a whole spectrum of personalities between those two extremes, of course. My point is that there’s no one right “flavor” for an intro that suits every one. If your introduction authentically represents who and how you are, and it turns some people off, those people probably aren’t good clients for you. To me, the authenticity is more important than pleasing all possible listeners. If you feel comfortable saying it, and it attracts the kind of clients you want, then you’ve found the right formula.

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