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?

Speak their language: communicate in the right tool

One of the best pieces of advice I got was “Find out if they are an email person or a phone person and communicate with them that way.” These days you have to add text messages, hangouts, whatsapp, irc, etc to the list, but the same principle holds true.

I’ll give you an example of how this can go wrong if you don’t “speak the right language.” Someone recently called the GNOME Foundation Board and identified themselves as press and asked to speak to me. Note that the board doesn’t have a phone. It’s just a virtual mailbox because organizations are supposed to have phone numbers.

If he had emailed the list, I’m confident he would have been forwarded on and gotten an answer (or been told no) within 24-48 hours. Instead he called.

I read about it in the board meeting minutes.

Here’s an overview of the proposed agenda/topics for this meeting:

* Adboard meeting at FOSDEM 2015
* Next steps for the Outreach Program
* Responding to a phone press inquiry asking to reach S. Peters

I replied back that if he was looking for me, he should be able to find my contact information easily on the web but that they were welcome to forward him to me or to the press list. Now note that they can’t forward it. It’s a voice mail in a virtual voice mail box.

So the next week I read in the minutes:

* Responding to a phone press inquiry asking to reach Stormy Peters
* Comment from Stormy: “There is a press mailing list to deal with press inquiries. And if they are looking for me, they should be able to find me but you are welcome to point them my way.”
* ACTION: maybe Rosanna can check with the caller to see what he wants and see if we need to get back to him by press contact, or if he really wanted to reach Stormy in particular?

Now, before you say how absurd, why didn’t they call him back, I want you to think back on all your communications over the past week. If you are like most people, I bet there’s at least one email, text message or voice mail you haven’t answered yet. And one of those unanswered messages is probably in a medium you don’t like to use much. People that know you well, know whether to send you a text message or an irc ping if they need a quick answer from you.

I think this is especially important when it comes to team communications.

If your team usually communicates over mailing lists and irc, and you set up a video meeting, does that fit their culture? If you set up an irc meeting, does that fit their culture? And if not, are you purposely trying to drive cultural change? Did you tell them that?

I tried holding all my extended team meetings as irc meetings instead of video meetings last year in order to involve more volunteers. It didn’t work. I’m guessing it’s either the meetings themselves that are either not in the culture or the meetings were not useful or our internal structure of teams didn’t match what volunteers thought of as projects.

Project communication goes beyond meetings and includes things like announcements, discussions and decisions. Should announcements be emails from a single person or newsletters or blog posts in your project’s culture? Should discussions happen on irc or mailing lists? Should they be logged? Should decisions be made on mailing lists, in meetings or in bug tracking tools?

How does your team communicate? How do you change those channels when you need to? Or can you?

How to be organized

I think most organized people have a secret:

Being unorganized drives them nuts. 

They are either anal-retentive or hyper or very inflexible, but being unorganized or surrounded by clutter makes them antsy.  Not being able to find something makes them angry.  Looking at a messy room drives them to action immediately.  They can’t not do something.  They put things away immediately.  If they have a few free minutes, they spend it straightening up, putting away things, doing dishes, … They don’t clean out their car by dumping everything on the garage floor because they just can’t do that. 

I think the best way to get organized and stay organized is to have that mind set.  Get to the point where you can’t sit still if your house is the slightest bit messy. 

Once you have the mindset, then you can apply all the tools and techniques people have developed to help people be organized.  But beware, none of those techniques will work in the long term if clutter doesn’t make you itch or make you feel sick and drive you to action!

Once you have the mindset, here are some articles and techniques: