7 tips: how to introduce yourself

I hate introducing myself. It’s very hard to introduce someone but especially yourself. So here’s what I’ve learned about giving awesome intros:

  1. Talk other people up. This may seem counter intuitive, but if you are doing a round robin set of intros, be sure to help others talk themselves up. For example, in a recent Kids on Computers set of introductions, Serena introduced herself. I jumped in to point out that she filed our original 501(c)(3) paperwork – which passed the first time. After that, several people jumped in to help others introduce themselves. The focus of the introductions becomes helping others, not trying to one up others.
  2. Know what you want. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want out of this group? Do you want them to know you can make decisions for your company so that they’ll negotiate with you? (Establish your authority.) Do you want them to see you as like them so that you can be friends? (Focus on what you have in common.) Do you want them to know how successful and fun your organization is so that they’ll volunteer? (Talk about what you’ve accomplished.) Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you focus on what’s important to stress in your introduction.
  3. Keep your audience in mind. You are not going to introduce yourself at a conference the same way you introduce yourself at the bar or at a little league game. I do not tell other parents that I meet for the first time at a little league game that I’m a VP at Cloud Foundry. If I intro myself that way, they tend to go “oh, nice” and move right on. It means nothing in that context. Being VP of Technical Evangelism at Cloud Foundry is an important thing to say when I’m talking to other people that lead developer relations and I want their help.
  4. Focus on accomplishments, not titles. Don’t be afraid of your title but realize that by itself, it might not convey anything. For example, saying I do advertising might not mean anything but if you could say “I did the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign“, everyone would know what you did.
  5. Know when to focus on your title. A few times to be sure to bring up titles are:

    1. Titles are important to that group. There are a few audiences where titles are very important. If titles are important in your meeting, you’ll probably know. Go ahead and use it.
    2. You are feeling overlooked or underestimated. Sometimes your title can convey your accomplishments better than the stereotypes associated with your looks. Legs of seated businessmen and woman wearing leg warmers
    3. Your title makes your role obvious – in one word it defines what you might want and what you have accomplished. For example, “high school principal” clearly defines a known role with authority.
  6. Don’t worry about sounding pretentious. If you worry about sounding pretentious or conceited or full of your self, you will either sound pretentious and conceited or you will sound insecure and dismissive of your own accomplishments.
  7. Listen to other people introduce you. One of the best ways to get comfortable with introducing yourself is listen to people you respect introduce yourself to new colleagues or friends. Listen to how they stress your accomplishments or strengths.

What are your tips for introducing yourself?

What labels are applied to you every day?

When you hear that a 13 year old, black girl is giving a keynote at OSCON, what do you think?

  1. Wow, she must be a child prodigy, what did she do?
  2. Who are her parents?
  3. She got that keynote because she’s a 13 year old, black, girl.

I’ve heard all three options and a few in between.

The truth is that Keila Banks is pretty awesome. She’s an accomplished blogger/technologist and her 10 minute keynote (to a 4,000 person audience!), “The Undefinable Me”, is well worth watching.

And Keila’s parents are pretty awesome too. They have given Keila lots of support and encouragement as she explores the opportunities around her. They are as inspirational to me as a parent as Keila is.

Would you save 2500 kids?

I sit around and wonder what to do with my life.  What’s my purpose in life?  And then I read about someone like Irena Sendler.  This amazing woman saved the lives of 2500 children!  Can you imagine?  She helped 2500 Jewish children in Poland find homes with Catholic families so they would escape the concentration camp.  She herself was tortured but she didn’t give away any information about the children.

I’m sure she didn’t go out looking for ways to save the world but when the opportunity presented itself, she stepped up to the plate.  She saw a need and stepped in to help at great cost and expense to herself.

How do we make sure that if the opportunity presents itself to us, that we recognize it?  And how do we find these opportunities?  My first response is "well, we all won’t get the opportunity to save children from the Nazis" but then my next thought is "no, but there’s probably even bigger opportunities today." 

Irena Sendler is now 97 years old and her only regret is that she didn’t do more. 

Woman fights off mountain lion

This woman fought off a mountain lion with a small log – a mountain lion that was attacking her husband.  It took persistence and multiple tries – at one point she tried to stab it in the eye with a pen.  The husband has had surgery and lots of stitches to repair the damage but the couple still plans to celebrate their 50th wedding anninversy in New Zealand this year!

Mountain lion attacks hiker in Calif.