Quick. Say something memorable about yourself, on the spot, in less than 15 seconds. Now come up with another – and then smile professionally, right in front of a bunch of strangers. Oh, and if you’re feeling bold, drop in a phrase that indicates you’re looking for your next job or another client. That’s your mandate at the next professional association, MeetUp or chamber mixer.
Don’t just introduce yourself. Stand out and be memorable; be the person they recall the next time a project manager job opens up or a colleague needs a first-rate translator. After all, networking is one of the best ways to land a new job.
Your introduction ought to build on your personal brand, and it might be light-hearted or heart-felt. But it definitely must be short and memorable. Here are five easy ways to network more effectively in person:
1. Create a clever one liner about you. “Spend some time before your next networking event coming up with at least one humorous, self-deprecating or intriguing way to introduce yourself and what you do,” a blog post for the National Association of Entrepreneurs recommends. Use “short pithy snippets of information…. keep it light and snappy and you will be memorable.”
2. Jot it down and try it out. Consider what it conveys about you and how it could be misconstrued. Refine your pitch and “try different things to see what works,” said Gail Tolstoi-Miller, who runs a recruiting and speed networking company in New Jersey. She’s finishing her book called Networking Karma.
3. Consider your value. Often the best pitch shows how you benefit other people, what problems you can solve, said Tolstoi-Miller. This pushes you way past your job title into thoughts on how you could help the person you are about to meet. Sometimes you cannot know that, so Miller suggests you may want to end your introduction with a question such as ‘How can I help you out?’ or ‘How can we help one another be more successful?’
4. Add a twist. Most people use their job title to introduce themselves. That works better if you jazz it up or add a surprise or a mention of some interest that jazzes you. Think of the twist as the squirt of fresh lemon juice in a big glass of water or the olive in the martini. Try saying: “I’m Julie Jobseeker, and I’m an HR manager who loves to shop. I want to land a job at a mid-sized or regional retailer with a great employee discount!” Or “I’m Jeff Jobhunter. I believe in second chances – for people and furniture.” He sells used office furniture and is striving to create a second career in sales training. Or use your nametag to highlight your hobby or some fun fact about you to be more approachable, Tolstoi-Miller suggests.
5. Practice your pitch, but be perky too. It doesn’t matter that this is your fourth networking event or career mixer this week. You still need to sound enthusiastic and passionate, said Tolstoi-Miller. Smile. If you feel discouraged or tired, “be an actress and pretend you’re happy,” she said. “Leave your problems at home” and remember you have only now to make a memorable first impression.