World's Best Self Introduction
from Able Leader, March 2007
by Steve Kaye
One common question you may encounter is: "What do you do?"
This seeks to understand who you are, and (more importantly) to determine if you are worth remembering.
So, how do you answer that question?
Two weeks ago I was eating breakfast in Springfield, Illinois, while people were introducing themselves with forgettable, ordinary (blah, blah) statements.
Then someone spoke out with a voice so clear, it made everyone stop.
She said: "I'm four years old."
(And, yes, she really is four years old.)
I think this is the best self-introduction that I've ever heard.
1) It's simple.
Four words tell it all. It's not a jumble of complex jargon that could mean anything.
Last month I attended a professional meeting where the attendees practiced their self-introductions, offering statements such as:
"We leverage proactive workforce initiatives to align fiscal accountability with strategic imperatives." (Note: I made this up. It's actually shorter and simpler than the real ones.)
After listening to half a dozen of these, I was fed up. So, I told the group that we need to use words everyone knows. Then others, such as potential clients, will understand what we're saying.
Key point: Simple makes you clear.
2) It's clear.
I know exactly what she does: She works at being four years old.
I can also guess that she is proud of her age because it was her main point.
And I expect that as an outspoken four-year old, she is full of life, discovery, and wonder. I expect she enjoys her day. And I doubt she spends any time surfing the net, sending e-mail, or talking on a cell phone.
And that left me wondering if my guesses were correct. That is, what was her world really like?
Key point: Clear makes you intriguing.
3) It's intriguing.
Even though we've all been four years old (and thus can relate to what she does) you might want to know why she chose that self-introduction.
So, I wanted to ask her questions, such as:
What's special about being four years old?
Suppose I wanted to be four years old, what would I need to do?
If you were going to give advice to all of the adults in the world, what would you tell them?
Key point: Intriguing makes you different.
4) It's different.
After attending hundreds of networking meetings and eating hundreds of breakfasts and hearing hundreds of self-introductions, this is the only time that I've heard someone say this.
Instead I've heard too many that sounded like, "My name is something and I work for someone. Here's my card so you can call me."
If you say the same thing that everyone else says, you sound like everyone else. And leaders need to say things differently so that their ideas stay with people.
Key point: Different makes you memorable.
5) It's memorable.
This is the pay off: you want to be memorable. That is, you want to be the person who goes home in the minds of the people you meet.
And how can you do that?
Communicate simple, clear ideas in ways that are different and intriguing.
This applies to self introductions, answers, and every statement that you make. Because if you are consistently quotable, your influence as a leader will increase.
Key point: Four years old is a good age. We should spend more time there. It's the place where we find our best ideas.