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Smart Talk The Public Speakerís Guide to Success in Every Situation,9780312597283

Smart Talk The Public Speakerís Guide to Success in Every Situation

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 1/22/2013
Publisher(s): St. Martin's Griffin
Availability: This title is currently not available.


- Have you ever been put on the spot and kicked yourself later for not having a substantial, confident response?- Have you ever lost out on a promotion because you didn't get along with your colleagues or boss?- Have you ever blanked when delivering a speech or a presentation? Saying the right thing isn't just about feeling comfortable. It's also essential for building successful relationships, getting ahead at work, and increasing your income. To get what you want, you have to know how to ask for it, how to negotiate, how to react.That's where Lisa Marshall's book comes in.With proven strategies and practical action plans, Smart Talkwill help you resolve conflicts, strengthen your natural charisma, and master the art of persuasion. Never again will you dread a holiday party or be rendered speechless at a business meeting. Backed by solid research and written in an engaging narrative style with a warm sense of humor, communication expert Lisa B. Marshall translates her wealth of experience into practical, fresh advice to help you navigate any complex situation, and achieve professional success.

Author Biography

Lisa B. Marshall is a communication strategist, author, and professional speaker who has been helping organizations improve productivity by honing their internal and external communication skills for over a decade. Her award-winning podcast, The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills, has earned nearly 7 million downloads since 2009! Lisa has been featured on CBS Money Watch,, Woman’s Day, and many other media outlets. Her clients include Roche, Genentech, The American Heart Association, Merck, Exxon Mobile, Harvard, and Stanford, just to name a few. Lisa produces a daily business newsletter, Communication Success, for the Hewlett-Packard ePrint Center, which reaches up to 500 million enterprise printers globally in three languages. Lisa is also the author (and reader) of the audiobook The Public Speaker’s Guide to Ace Your Interview. She holds a master’s degree in interpersonal and organizational communication from the State University of New York. She lives near Philadelphia with her husband and two children.

Table of Contents

1. Taking the "Hell" Out of Hello: How to Introduce Yourself
2. Conversation Magic: How to Improve Your Conversation Skills
3. Cat Got Your Tongue? What to Say When . . .
4. Giddyup Your Follow- Up: How to Effectively Follow Up on Your Conversations
5. From Archie Bunker to Mary Poppins: How to Speak with Tact and Grace
6. Fearless Feedback: How to Deliver Restorative Feedback
7. Ouch, That Hurts! How to Accept Criticism
8. We Have to Talk: How to Have a Difficult Conversation
9. Tongue Fu: How to Deal with Difficult People
10. Say No More: How to Say "No"
11. The Art (and Science) of Persuasion: How to Influence Others
12. The Art of the Deal: How to Negotiate
13. Say Yes to Impress: How to Use Positive Language
14. Magically Delicious: How to Unleash Your Inner Charisma


1. Taking the “Hell” Out of Hello:How to Introduce Yourself
Please allow me to introduce myself / I’m a man of wealth and taste / I’ve been around for a long, long year / Stole many a man’s soul and faith.
When I was a young General Electric (GE) management trainee, I attended quarterly status meetings. One time we were waiting over thirty minutes for senior managers to arrive. As my luck would have it, nature was calling, so I left to use the restroom. On my way back, I was in a hurry and literally ran into someone in the hallway.
When I looked up, I immediately realized I had just bumped into Jack Welch, then CEO of GE. Of course, I was embarrassed and started apologizing. He smiled, stuck out his hand to shake, and said, “Well, hello, I’m Jack Welch.” I laughed and said, “Yes, of course, you are—I know who you are.” He responded very graciously, by saying, “And you are?”
As a very young eager management trainee this was my perfect opportunity to introduce myself and make a great first impression. But I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t sure what to say, so I stammered. When I returned to my seat I could still feel the heat in my face. I was so embarrassed and angry at myself because I had delivered such a poor self-introduction and had blown an opportunity to make a great first impression.
Although most of us don’t meet a well-known and influential CEO like Jack Welch every day, we do meet scores of people in our daily life—at our jobs, at parties, at networking events, or even in the supermarket check-out line. And it’s impossible to know ahead of time when you might meet someone who could have a big impact on your life.
Quick Quiz:Think about the last time you introduced yourself. Who was it? How did it go? Do you remember what you said? What opportunities have you gained because you took the risk and introduced yourself to a stranger?
First impressions are critically important. We size each other up very quickly. One study1 suggests that we unconsciously comprehend what something is and decide whether we like it or not in as little as 1/10 of a second. Another study showed2 that first impressions as short as three minutes play a major role in determining the course of a relationship. Even when we’re presented with lots of evidence to the contrary, we’re attached to our initial impressions of people. This is why creating a positive first impression is so crucial.
In essence, our introductory behaviors and words are what we use to gauge if we want to take a next step with that person. Specifically, an introduction is used to evaluate if you can help your conversation partner, or if he or she can help you.
Ultimately, a good introduction is a short, focused statement or question that is interesting to your listener—with the latter being the most important. That is the purpose of any introduction, to gain the interest of your conversation partner so the initial connection can advance to conversation-making and building rapport.
Early on in my career, I was fearful to introduce myself to people I perceived as “above me” in rank. I also thought that in general, small talk was useless (I used to call itplastic talk) because it seemed so fake and artificial. So I avoided introducing myself and making conversations.
Although I did network internally, I didn’t do it nearly enough or with the right mix of people. I didn’t network externally at all. My career suffered. Because I didn’t have strong connections, many times my intentions were misunderstood, or worse, colleagues thought I was purposefully being disrespectful.
After some coaching, I finally understood that introduction and small talk were just a way to begin to move toward meaningful conversations and that networking effectively was critically important to career success. My coach said to me, “Lisa, you don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date! You need to warm-up first.” That made sense! Before I can ask someone important questions, I first needed the person to respond favorably to me, to like me, and perhaps most important, to trust me. It was like a huge lightbulb went off in my head—introductions, small talk, and initial conversations are just a first step toward genuine communication.
Check This Out:Visit to see a very funny (but fake) eHarmony introduction. It’s a great example of whatnotto do.
The Best Self-Introduction I’ve Ever Received
Oddly, the best self-introduction that I’ve ever received was not a professional one. It was a letter. Prior to the start of their kindergarten year, my children each received a hand-written note from the school principal. She introduced herself by listing her favorite things to eat (pizza and popcorn) and by sharing her favorite summertime activities (going to the movies and to the beach).
My husband and I also received a letter of introduction. However, in our letter, the principal described her professional experience and educational background along with her goals for the school and for the children in the upcoming year.
My children and I immediately liked the principal because she shared things about herself that overlapped with our own interests. She successfully created a strong first impression, which engendered a positive reaction in us.
A well-crafted, strong self-introduction is a critical part of making a good first impression. It’s no wonder that “how to make an introduction” is one of the most commonly searched topics onThe Public Speakerblog, and the most commonly asked question I receive during networking workshops.
Quick Quiz:Before you read the steps to an effective introduction, take a shot at introducing yourself to someone. It could be to me, to a friend, or to anyone. You’ll want to keep this one as your “before” so you can compare your progress after reading the steps.
Now, that you’ve given it a try, here are the five steps to effective introductions. Skipping these five basics may cost you the opportunity of a lifetime.
Step #1: Make It Relevant to Your Audience
The most important part of any introduction is to consider your audience. Who exactly are you introducing yourself to? What will they find interesting and compelling? What can you share that might help you make a connection and quickly build common ground?
When I teach introductions and conversation-making in workshops, I tell the participants to think of themselves as a series of ever-larger concentric circles. At the center is your heart. What you keep deep in your heart is highly personal; things that perhaps you only share with yourself or maybe your partner. As you move out from there, you have your emotions, your values, and your culture, moving further out your interests and activities, your roles, your experiences, and your immediate environment.
When we enter a roomful of strangers, we’re all separate circles scattered throughout the room.
When we introduce ourselves, our outer circles begin to touch. With time, as we move from introduction to conversation, our circles begin to overlap. The overlap is how we build rapport.
The process of introduction starts with a smile, direct eye contact, and good posture. You need to walk and stand with assurance. These nonverbal behaviors are powerful and communicate confidence, trust, and sincerity. They make you more attractive, approachable, and memorable.
Check This Out:Introductions can be serious, funny, artistic, and specific. Visit to see three very different (and creative) introduction videos.
Step #2: Shake Hands
The next step is to shake hands. Cold fish are expected at sushi bars and sweaty palms are fine at middle school dances. Neither screams professionalism. Know how to present a good handshake. A good handshake instills confidence, trustworthiness, and can make or break a deal. Most important, it leaves a lasting impression.
Quick Quiz:Think about how and when you shake hands. Have you ever made an instant decision/perception (positive or negative) about anyone based purely on his or her handshake?
To shake, reach forward with your right hand, keeping your elbow in and slightly flexed. Keep your drink or objects in your left hand, so that only your right is available for shaking (make sure it’s not cold and wet).
Your right hand should be open, your palm perpendicular to the floor and your thumb pointing upward. Be sure to fully expose the web of your hand (that’s the fleshy part between your index finger and thumb.)
It’s critically important that the web of your hand touch the web of the other person’s hand, first, before your fingers wrap around. Then, and only then, firmly squeeze. In fact, this initial web-to-web contact is the key to a successful handshake.
Research3 suggests, that to be perceived as open and extroverted, you need to squeeze firmly. The strength of the grip should be strong enough so that you’re applying and feeling a comfortable pressure, as when you hold a hammer or umbrella in one hand. To end the shake, pump once or twice and disconnect. You don’t want to linger too long. Once you feel the grip of the other person loosen, you should let go, even if you are still talking.
Finally, it’s always good to make a habit of observing handshake subtleties. We typically shake both before and after a meeting. You’ll want to notice if there are any differences between the first and second shakes. Did the second one last a bit longer? Did the person stand a little closer to you? Did the other party smile more at you? These are all indicators that the meeting may have gone well.
Warning:Greetings and handshakes vary around the world. For example, in Japan, the customary greeting is a bow, or a weak handshake. Research4 customs surrounding handshakes when you are participating in another culture.
Step #3: Say the Other Person’s Name While Shaking
If possible, when introducing yourself start with the name of theotherperson. Of course, in a letter or online, that’s easy to do: “Dear Mr. Incao” or “Hi, Chris.” In person, it’s tempting to start with your own name, but if you know the name of the other person, use his name first. In a group setting, you can just say “Hi, everyone!”
This brings me to a fine point. Do you use a person’s last name or first name? In the United States, it’s common to greet people by first names, unless the person is significantly above you in rank. However, in many other cultures, it is much more common to greet someone more formally—as in Ms. Winslet or Mr. Chairman. If you’re not sure, go with the more formal approach and the person you’re greeting will likely let you know. When people call me Ms. Marshall, I always respond by saying, “Please, call me Lisa.”
Once you’ve said your greeting, then you should say your name. In fact, in a professional setting, it’s important to say your name twice. It’s also a good habit to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n c–o–n–s–i–d–e–r–a–b–l–y and say your name very clearly. In personal settings you might just say, “Hi, Mary Beth, I’m Lisa.”
If it’s a professional self-introduction, it’s likely to be a bit more formal, “Hello, Mr. Jones, I’m Lisa, Lisa B. Marshall.” Depending on the setting, you may also want to include your title, the company you work for, or other appropriate context information. When I accidentally bumped into Jack Welch, this is what Ishouldhave started with:
“Hello, Mr. Welch, I’m Lisa, Lisa Boehm [I was still single then]. I’m a graduate of the Information Systems Management Program and I am in my first year on the Corporate Audit Staff.”
If you want to remember the other person’s name, you may want to try to say the name of the other person twice during the introduction. That will help you to remember and it shows a genuine interest. Be aware, however, some people may feel like you’re overdoing it by repeating his or her name more than once, so if you prefer, you can repeat the name silently in your thoughts.
Warning:Don’t introduce yourself as your nickname. “I’m Ginni Rometty.” It’s better to say, “I’m Virginia Rometty, but please call me Ginni.”
Step #4: Build Rapport by Finding Common Ground
In the letter the principal sent to my children she mentioned that she likes to eat pizza and popcorn and go to the beach in the summer. Of course, she chose these particular activities on purpose—what kid doesn’t like pizza, popcorn, or going to the beach? Similarly, in the parent introduction letter, she shares her goals for the new students during the year—which, of course, are shared by any parent.
It’s really no different in a crowded conference.
“Hi, Mary, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. I’m curious, what’s been the most valuable part of the conference for you?”
The idea is to then build on the response. How can you relate to what the other person found valuable? Is this something you value too? If so, tell a story that demonstrates that shared value. If not, then choose a story that demonstrates a similar value.
I’ve used this technique in response to the question, “What do you do?” Instead of directly answering the question, I respond by saying, “I’ll tell you what I do, however, I’d love to hear what you do first.” Then, the information shared can be used to adjust the way I describe what I do so that it is more relevant and interesting to the listener.
During initial introductions, business professionals share their interests, goals, activities, and roles because these are areas you’ll likely have overlap with, particularly when attending a professional conference. Although a professional connection is very likely, keep in mind, the connection doesn’t have to be business-related. It doesn’t even have to be of great importance (e.g. the weather, the news, etc.), just one that creates commonality that you can build upon to move the conversation forward.
Google Someone to Discover Common Ground
If you know ahead of time who you plan to introduce yourself to, you should think about doing a little research first. For example, I wanted to meet Guy Kawasaki (one of the first Apple evangelists and author of numerous books, includingEnchantment, Art of the Start, Hindsights,and others). So, I read a few of his books and his blog in an effort to learn where our “circles” might overlap.
For example, early in my research, I learned that he loves hockey. But the only connection I have to hockey is that I playedfieldhockey in middle school. Then, I found out that he enjoys Robert Scoble, Queen Latifah, and Jenny Lawson—three people who I also respect and enjoy. However, I didn’t stop there; my research was extensive. It turns out that Guy and I have many areas of common ground. When I met him, our conversation naturally led to communication topics I had read on his blog and heard in recorded interviews, and it was easy to expand on those ideas and concepts. My research preparation certainly paid off, because we were able to easily connect in an enjoyable conversation.
Isn’t That Stalking?
At this point, I’d need to take a detour to answer a question that I often get after I mention these “research” strategies. Often, a participant in a workshop will raise their hand and say, “Isn’t that a little creepy or stalker-like?”
My response is: Well, that depends. Always let the context of the information and the situation guide you when choosing what to reveal from your research.
If someone has made information public by writing about it on a work-related blog or by leaving a comment in a forum or by including it in a book, it’s fair game to bring it up. In fact, as long as your intention is to establish a professional connection, it’s a good idea to bring it up, because it shows you are making an effort to get to know the person.
Sometimes, people will do that to me. They read something that I wrote several years ago, so it’s fresh in their mind, and they will paraphrase or quote me,tome. I’ll admit it feels a little odd, but at the same time it’s flattering that someone has taken the time to read or listen to something I’ve written.
In Guy Kawasaki’s bookEnchantmenthe writes5, “In my case, when strangers tell me they play hockey, they lower my resistance to their pitch because we have something in common. If nothing else, I respect them for making the effort to learn my passion.”
Again, keep in mind the overall context of the conversation. Where did you gather the information? Why are you meeting this person? Is this a professional meeting or a personal one? Was the published information intended for the general public to consume? The context of the situation will dictate if your actions are “stalker-like” or not.
For example, in a professional setting you wouldn’t suddenly veer off into personal information that you learned from a person’s Facebook page. At the same time, if the same information was revealed on a blog, then go ahead and bring it up.
“Suzie, I noticed on your personal Facebook page that you likeStar Warsmovies. I do too.”
“I noticed on your blog that you referenceStar Warsmovies a lot. I love those movies, too!”
Not creepy.
Finally, what do you do if you’re not sure what the other’s person passions are? Just start with “safe” topics (such as weather, sports, travel) and avoid anything controversial (like politics, ethics, religion).
Step #5: Communicate Confidence
An important part of any introduction is to communicate confidence. As you are saying your initial words and shaking hands, remember that the majority of your impact will actually come from your tone of voice and body language. You’ll want to communicate enthusiasm by speaking slightly faster, smiling, making direct eye contact, and speaking with an upbeat, positive tone of voice.
Warning:Keep in mind that in most business settings your goal is to show confidence but not overconfidence. That might be perceived as intimidating and unappealing.
In some service professions, such as medical or legal providers, often the main purpose of an initial introduction is to instill confidence in you and your abilities. Again, the context of the situation warrants a different approach. In the case of a service provider introduction, instead of aiming to discover common ground, it’s better to express something about your experience and credentials, perhaps along with a statement of concern. For example, if you were an emergency room patient which introduction would you prefer?
“Hi, I’m Dr. Flowe. I like hiking and the comedy of Jon Stewart.”
“Hi, I’m Dr. Flowe. I’ll be your emergency doctor today. I’ve been doing this for sixteen years, and I’m Board Certified. My team and I will take great care of you today.”
In a Roomful of People Focus on Two or Three Things Only
At times, a self-introduction may be one-sided—such as in a classroom when the students are asked to introduce themselves. In this case, you may be asked to provide specific information (like your name, occupation/major, and something unique about you), but at other times you may be free to respond in any manner you choose. The first case is easy—just remember to briefly include all of the requested details, and don’t let the previous responses get you off track.
When the introduction details are your choice, I recommend picking three things (at most) that you think others in the group might relate to. This means you shouldalwayshave six or seven sound bites prepared and in your mobile device. Sound bites are short messages that you are willing to share with strangers and that you’ve practiced. Ideally, this should be a mix of professional and personal items.
Think carefully about how you want to represent yourself. Again, the idea is to try to build rapport. By choosing just two or three things, your introduction will be more memorable. In addition, you can expand and contract the length of your response by providing examples or details for each of your chosen points.
For example, for a very short personal introduction I might say:
“Hi, everyone. I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. My girls are in second grade.”
For a longer answer in a personal setting I might say:
“Hi, everyone. I’m Lisa. I’m a mother, author, and speaker. I enjoy dancing, although I’m not that good at it.”
In a professional setting, I generally prefer to focus on three work-related things:
“Hi, everyone, I’m Lisa, Lisa B. Marshall. I’m a professional speaker, author, and podcast host.”
For a longer professional answer, I might say:
“Hi, everyone, I’m Lisa, Lisa B. Marshall. I’m a professional speaker and author. I’m also known as The Public Speaker, because I am the host of a tips-based communication skills podcast calledThe Public Speaker. I’m excited because my second book,Smart Talk,just landed on theNew York TimesBestseller list!” (A girl can dream, right?)
How to Introduce Yourself Via Telephone
Introducing yourself on the phone is a little bit different. I try to keep my self-introduction extremely short. I only share my name and one thing about me that the other person might know. For example: “Hello, Jen, I’m Lisa. My daughter is in Emily’s class.”
In a professional setting I’d say, “Hello Eli, I’m Lisa, Lisa Marshall. You might recognize my voice. I’m The Public Speaker.” The idea is I don’t want to spend too much time on me—I’m only interested in setting a context for the phone call.
If I am leaving a voice mail for someone I’ve never met before, at the very end of the message, I also usually add: “Oh, if you like, before you call me back, you can check me out at to get a better idea of who I am.” (Yes, I do smile, even though it’s a voice mail. The other person of course is not going to see my smile, but still you can hear a smile.)
One advantage of introducing yourself via telephone is that you can have notes in front of you. I would never suggest having complete paragraphs of information that you plan to share—instead, have a few phrases that will help you to remember what to include. This way, your message will sound conversational and not stiff.
How to Introduce Yourself Via E-mail or the Web
When I introduce myself via e-mail, I again prefer to keep it short with three main bullet points. I always include links so the person can learn more. That way if they are interested, they can click and if they are not, they can just keep reading. I might link to my Web site, or toThe Public Speakershow, or to my LinkedIn profile, or to other online profiles that I maintain.
Again, I try to choose links that I think would be most relevant to the person I am introducing myself to. I usually try to offer something to the person, such as a free resource.
Web introductions are a mix of e-mail and telephone tips. Keep it short, but provide links to learn more. If you really want to engage the person, offer them something of value so that it isn’t a one-sided exchange.
VIP Bonus:With the exponential growth of social media, often introductions are online rather than in-person. Download “The Best Social Media Introductions” and get other exclusive information and benefits by joining my free members-only VIP site by visiting
The Smart Talk Un-Introduction
When introducing myself to a complete stranger, I prefer to be very brief and conversational. The idea behind an “un-introduction” is to ask an interesting question that helps lead your partner into a conversation and then later tell them who you are. In a social setting, it’s easy. Just ask any open-ended question.
“What have you found most valuable/interesting/useful at the conference?… I’m Lisa, by the way.”
“So, what do you do, when you’re not doing this?”
In a professional setting (except perhaps in an interview setting, where it’s usually best to let your interviewer lead the conversation) a really thoughtful question is often much more effective than anything you can say about yourself. That’s why the un-introduction is my favorite approach.
I created theSmart Talk“un-introduction” technique based upon an exercise I read about in Jeffrey Gitomer’sLittle Black Book of Connections6. When you find yourself in a professional networking situation, Jeffrey suggests that you walk up to people based on the title on their name tag. He suggests that you say your name, and then ask a direct question. Here’s how I’ve used his technique:
“Hi, I’m Lisa. Tell me, if you could magically fix the most significant communication issue in your organization overnight, how would tomorrow be different?”
Of course I’ve created and prepared follow-up questions, too:
“If you had to estimate, how much do you think poor communication costs your organization?”
“What have you tried to address your communication issues?”
“Do you have any plans in place now?”
The next step is where Jeffrey and I differ. In addition to a variety of follow-up questions, I also prepare and practice client stories. That way, when the person eventually asks me what I do (and they always do), I say “I’m a communication strategist and I help people like you. For example…” Then I’ll I tell a client story about an organization I helped that had the same or similar problems as the person just described in response to my initial questions.
When I’m done telling the client story, I usually say, “You sound like you have an interesting and unique communication challenge. I’d love to learn more about the issues you’re facing. Would you like to set up a time to discuss it in more detail? If I can help I’ll certainly let you know, but if I can’t, I’ll help you find someone who can.”
This approach takes some confidence, preparation, and practice to perfect. However, it can be highly efficient and an effective way to engage someone in a presales conversation and further your professional relationship.
Twenty-Five Years Later and I’m Still Working on How to Introduce Myself
At the end of “The Farmer in the Dell,” I always feel sorry for the cheese. Everyone else—the farmer, the wife, the dog, the cat, the rat—all had someone or something to show for at the end of the day. The cheese, though, despite having an important farm-life role to play, finds itself at the end of exciting hi-ho-the-derry-o-ing, alone.
Don’t make my mistake. Don’t be the cheese.
I recently attended a conference for authors who wanted to become professional speakers. On the train returning home I realized I had made a big mistake. I didn’t really connect with attendees as I usually do and it seemed to get worse as the conference went on. Looking back, I realized it had to do with how I was introducing myself. I failed to follow my own advice!
I introduced myself as a “professional speaker.” You might be saying, “Well what’s wrong with that? Youarea professional speaker, aren’t you?”
Yes, I am, but in this case saying that wasn’t the best choice. I didn’t keep in mind that the other attendees were there to learn how to become professional public speakers. A better and equally true answer could have been: “I am an author trying to make public speaking a bigger part of my business.” Or “I’m a communication strategist trying to make public speaking a bigger part of my business.”
The point is, my choice of words separated me from my fellow attendees. While I was unconsciously protecting my ego, I was creating distance. I am reluctant to admit this, but I also noticed that I chose not to introduce myself to some people based on the topic of their books. I won’t lie, I was judging a person by his book (cover). If I thought the topic was “hocus-pocus,” I didn’t bother. That was a mistake. I lost business opportunities as a result.
Don’t let this happen to you. It’s the biggest connection mistake you can make. The challenge when making initial connections is to keep an open mind, to ask questions, and to listen.
Warning:Even if your natural tendency is to spot the negatives in someone, always remind yourself that connecting is about finding common ground.
In his book,Love Is the Killer App,Tim Sanders advises7:
Don’t screen anyone out. Sometimes, those who may appear powerless or insignificant are potential stars, and someday they may become a key node in your network, and they will remember that you were on their side before they went large!
You just never know who you might meet and what impact they will have on your business or your life. Meeting someone can lead to nothing at all, or perhaps a small action step for you, or maybe it will change the direction of your business or your life.
I have provided you with my smart talk rules, guidelines and activities to help you introduce yourself. Now it’s up to you to execute. Go, meet people! To help you get started, here are threeSmart Talkchapter challenges.
Smart Talk Challenge #1
Introduce yourself to at least one stranger everyday for one week. Try introducing yourself in different ways each time. Make a game of it. (If you find introducing yourself difficult, start by simply smiling at strangers. For a more advanced challenge, choose settings that make you uncomfortable.)
Smart Talk Challenge #2
Find a Meet-Up group. Choose a group that’s interesting to you and attend an event. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can. Make a game of it. The idea is to practice by introducing yourself differently each time. For a more advanced challenge, choose a group of people that you consider very different from you.
Smart Talk Challenge #3
Introduce yourself and meet other readers at Oh go ahead, don’t be shy! The more you practice the better your introductions will be. Besides, where else will you be able to get some feedback on your introduction and meet other readers of the same book. Pretty cool, huh?
Summary: How to Introduce Yourself
The success or failure of your self-introduction impacts the success of the relationship and could have an impact on the rest of your life.
Self-introductions are a critical part of first impressions. Not only are first impressions hard to change, they impact the progression of the relationship.
To engage your conversation partner, your introduction must be relevant to them.
The standard professional greeting is a firm, web-to-web handshake, with direct eye contact and good posture.
The best introductions share common interests, goals, activities, and roles.
Introductions demonstrate confidence but not overconfidence.
For an introduction to a group, focus on an interest, a role, or an activity—perhaps two or three.
On the telephone, very brief introductions are only to set the context of the call.
For written Web introductions, include three short main points with links to details.
Un-introductions start with a question, then lead to common ground.
Case Study: Allison P.
Allison approached me after a seminar once and told me that she had a very difficult time introducing herself and carrying on face-to-face conversations. She told me that often her in-person conversation partners seemed to quickly lose interest and, more important, didn’t seem to take her seriously.
In fact, it was such a significant problem that it was hurting her during the job interview process. She was getting many telephone interviews, but not getting past her first in-person interviews.
I immediately saw the problem. She had difficultly maintaining any sort of eye contact during conversations. When she was talking with me, she was looking past me, up and to the right—as if she was looking at something that was beyond me. I explained to her that in our culture, eye contact is critical for creating a connection and when you can’t hold someone’s gaze, you are often perceived as untrustworthy. It was the lack of eye contact that was causing the misperceptions.
I showed her what she needed to do and we practiced for a few minutes right there at the event. I also gave her a few “homework” video exercises to do so she could improve.
About a year later, she came to see me again at a public workshop just to thank me. I could see the difference immediately. She enthusiastically told me that this one small change had made an incredible difference in both her professional and personal life. She told me that not only was she more comfortable with conversations, she had landed a great job, and she was surprised by how many people over the past year have commented on the difference they noticed in her “confidence” level.
*   *   *
I asked for listener/readers of my podcast to send me introductions. Here are some of the ones I particularly enjoyed:
“Hi Lisa, my name is Samantha. I am a professional freelance ghostwriter and copywriter. I enjoy competitive amateur athletics and spending time with my family. Thank you for this wonderful lesson on introductions.”
“Hello, my dear young historians! I’m Ms. MacDonald, your new history teacher! This is my third year teaching high school world history online—it’s a fascinating subject! I’ve read all of theTwilight Sagaand finally started readingHarry Potterthis week. I live in downtown Seattle, where I love to go to museums and concerts. Last month I went to the 30 Seconds to Mars concert. Where do you live? What are you into?”
(This introduction is for a discussion forum. Sherri Morgan MacDonald’s online students live all over the state of Washington.)
“Hello Lisa, my name is Ian Williams and I, unfortunately, am not quite as fond of photography as you are. I do, however, enjoy riding my motorcycle around, absorbing the serenity a photo may convey. When I’m not riding, I work as a learning facilitator for a large pharmaceutical corporation.”
“My name is Tina, Tina Clark. I am a nontraditional college of business student majoring in accounting. I am a mother of four grown boys, and my favorite activity is hiking with my new husband, although I don’t get to do it as often as I would like.”
“My name is Soumia. I am fifteen years old. I am Algerian and I study in secondary school.”
“Me Tarzan. You Jane.”
(This last one came from Lee Tsao, who used to be my manager.)

Copyright © 2013 by Lisa B. Marshall

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