Let’s just go round the table and introduce ourselves. Do those words set your heart racing and bring you out in a cold sweat?
It’s hardly surprising. You may have already spoken to one or two members of the group before the meeting, but this is the first time you address the whole group. Naturally you want to make a positive impression. And generally that means not only coming across as being good at your job, but also being liked by the rest of the group. It’s a pretty challenging task even in your own language. No wonder people are unsure whether they can achieve it in a foreign language!
But if you invest some time in thinking about the issues involved and the language you need beforehand, it all becomes much more manageable.
What should you include?
It all depends. It depends on the national context, on the sort of company you work for and on your own personality. While in some (national and business) cultures there’s a tendency to focus in particular on professional experience and qualification, in others more personal information (age, family, hobbies, etc.) is given.
To be sure that your introduction provides the information expected by the chair (and the rest of the group), listen carefully. Often the chair will tell you what they would like you to include in your introduction and indicate how much detail you should go into. If you’re not the first person to speak, you can also take your cue from those speaking before you. If the chair sets a time limit be sure to stick to it.
Strike the right balance
This is, of course, your time slot for presenting your professional expertise, your achievements, your interests. But it can be a good idea not to make your introduction just about you. Try opening it up a little by including the other members of the meeting, for example, by stating what you hope to learn from them or by saying that you are looking forward to working with them.
Although you can take your cue about the type of information you supply from the rest of the group, don’t try to be someone else in the way you present it. For example, just because another member of the group told a hilarious story about himself in his introduction, it doesn’t mean that your introduction has to be equally funny. Stick with what you feel most comfortable with.
Take your time
A lot of people naturally speak faster when they’re nervous. And it can be tempting to speed up or say only a very little in order to get the introduction over with as fast as possible. But it’s a pity not to make full use of your “stage”. So gather your thoughts, then make a conscious effort to speak at normal speed and allow yourself to pause occasionally.
There’s no need for your introduction to be spontaneous. As this is such a common situation, it’s worth preparing in advance. Using the framework and phrases below, write down what you would like to say. Then practise saying it out loud – perhaps finding alternatives for any words you repeatedly stumble over – until you can introduce yourself naturally without referring to your notes. In the meeting itself you can then adapt what you say slightly to fit what the chair asks for.
Framework and useful language
Hello. I’m [your name]
Unsure whether to give your first and last name or just your first name? I usually say: Hello I’m Nicola [tiny pause]. Nicola Bartlett. (A bit like Bond. James Bond 😉 )
I’m a [job title].
I’ve been with [name of company] for [number of years] now.
If the meeting is not an internal one you can include a little information on your company at this point.
I started out in the [name of department] OR: I started out as a [job].
In my current position I’m responsible for [main task or tasks]. That involves [a few details about your work].
Note that you can use a noun or a verb here. If you use a verb it needs to be the gerund (the ing form).
An example using nouns: I’m responsible for salaries and wages. That involves a lot of overtime at the end of the month.
An example using verbs (gerunds): I’m responsible for organizing training. That involves contacting trainers, booking rooms, evaluating feedback.
I’m here today because …
My role in the project is to …
I’ve been looking forward to this meeting, because
If it’s the kick-off meeting for a new project you can say a couple of sentences about your hopes for the project or your excitement at being involved.
When I’m not at work, I spend a lot of time [just a few words to give the others an idea of what you do outside work]
A few examples:
When I’m not at work, I spend a lot of time outdoors. I enjoy fishing and going for long walks with my dog.
When I’m not at work, I spend most of my time with my family. I’ve got three children – a boy aged 8 and twin girls aged 4.
In my free-time I love travelling, whether it’s a weekend trip to another German city or the four weeks I spent in India last year.
Well, I hope I’ve inspired you to take the first steps towards tackling this rather daunting situation. At the risk of repeating myself, the more you practise the easier it becomes. 😉
By the way, if missed something one of the other members of the group said – perhaps because you were nervously waiting for your turn or busy kicking yourself for a mistake you made in your introduction – I’ve listed some phrases for asking for this information.