Does introducing yourself in a professional setting make you anxious? Here are four ways to remain calm, focused, and on top of your game!
"Before we get started, let's go around the table and have everyone introduce themselves."
Can anything turn a poised professional into a quivering slab of jelly more quickly than a roundtable where that suggestion is made?
Perhaps not. After all, that's the extreme example of the "Introductions make me awkward" experience. What could be worse for anyone self-conscious about introducing themselves, than to have the moment draw visibly nearer, moment by excruciating moment?
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Self-introductions needn't be the cause of nervousness and anxiety, however. They are opportunities to get started right away in reaching your goals for the meeting, conference, or business roundtable. In fact, they need the same approach as all of your public speaking: a concern with meeting others' needs rather than with your own performance. So, here are four ways to stay on top of your game when introducing yourself is the play that's been called.
Breathe to Calm and Focus Yourself
Whether it's waiting to be put on the spot by talking about yourself, or any other circumstance that's apt to test your mettle, breathing is your key to self-equilibrium. I'm speaking specifically of diaphragmatic breathing.
My speech coaching clients often ask in sessions where I'm teaching this breathing technique, if it's an activity to be used during speaking itself. Yes, of course. Breathing fully and consciously will certainly aid your vocal production and projection. But even more important, developing the habit of slower and effortless breathing makes you better prepared for whatever is coming your way. An ideal application of that philosophy is the roundtable introduction.
Listen to What the Others Are Saying
Tell the truth: When you're waiting for the Dreaded Introduction to land in your lap, are you paying attention to what anyone else is saying? Of course not. You're rehearsing what you're going to say in your head, determined to sound good and impress everyone when it's your turn.
No wonder you're stressing yourself out! You're making the same mistake you commit in your speeches, if you're more concerned with how you're coming across than whether the audience is getting anything of value. Actually listening to others' introductions will help you in two ways: 1) It will stop your self-consciousness and halt the doomsday clock you hear ticking; and 2) You will learn some things, including remarks you may be able to comment on.
Make It Part of Your Performance
At a conference recently, I met a friend I hadn't seen in a while, who confessed that he had trouble with his introductions and asked my advice. He was part of a panel at the conference, in fact, so his question had some urgency. He told me he never had a problem with his actual performance, only the self-introduction which always came first.
I talked to him about the approach I discuss in this article, including this point: your speech or presentation doesn't begin after you introduce yourself. Those remarks are the start of your performance. Doesn't everything you say at this meeting contribute to what others hear? Thinking this way may help you avoid labeling the self-introduction as an awkward exercise.
Focus on What You Have to Contribute
Finally, a reminder that you're there to contribute and nothing more. Your participation in this professional gathering was never about you—which may sound harsh, but is actually the kind of positive self-talk you should indulge in concerning all of your public speaking.
Without it, you run the risk of separating your introductory remarks from what you'll be saying afterwards. No wonder you feel put on the spot and at a loss! If you're worried about sounding boastful (as some people are), remember that everything you say should be relevant to the purpose of the meeting. That's an easy-to-follow trail that leads to serving the group, not you.
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