Meeting new people and introducing yourself

Your first impression can be the difference between starting a successful business relationship or finishing with a one-off meeting. It is very easy to make a negative first impression on someone, often without knowing you’ve done so. It’s much harder to make a positive impression, so you must put some effort into your introductions.

Making a good first impression

The way you introduce and present yourself provides people with a first impression of you. Most people begin forming an opinion of you within 3 seconds and these judgements can be difficult to modify.

When we introduce ourselves to someone, we're saying we're interested in establishing some sort of ongoing rapport for mutual benefit. There are 3 parts to our introductions:

  • the handshake (often, but not always)
  • introducing yourself
  • moving into conversation.

Handshaking in Australia

You are more likely to be remembered by a person whose hand you’ve shaken. In traditional Australian culture there are 4 main opportunities for handshaking:

  • when introduced to someone and when saying goodbye
  • when you run into someone you haven't seen in a long time
  • when you enter a meeting and are introduced to participants
  • when you reach agreement or commit to a deal.

These are the most commonly used features of handshaking in Australia:

  • stand
  • step or lean forward
  • make eye contact
  • smile
  • shake hands – firm but not hard
  • greet the other person and repeat their name.

Introducing yourself

Your introduction should tell people who you are and it should encourage people to engage with you. You need to sell yourself and feel confident while doing so because this will put others at ease.

When introducing yourself, apart from your name you should consider including:

  • your role or title
  • your business, trade, or industry
  • a brief description of your business
  • a 'memory hook' (quick, ear-catching phrase that people are likely to remember)
  • a benefit statement of one particular product or service you offer.

The length of your introduction will depend on the circumstances of the introduction. It shouldn't need to be long, and it's possible to combine certain elements, such as your business and your benefit statement.

Always remember to speak clearly and smile, making eye contact with the person you're speaking to. Using a bit of humour can put people at ease, but remember that certain types of humour offend.

Cultural differences

If an introduction doesn't go according to plan, one reason may be cultural differences. Every culture has its own way of meeting people in business situations for the first time.

Here are 3 examples of how the common business practices of other cultures contrast with those used in Australia:

  • In Brazil, an initial handshake is considered very important. There is likely to be a great deal of small talk before the meeting properly starts, and the tone set here can be very important in the relationship development cycle.
  • In Russia, meetings are often very formal, structured and serious. Many Russian negotiators believe that a formal meeting is a serious affair and should be treated accordingly. Humour is rarely used in such serious situations.
  • In China, formal exchanges of business cards are performed at the beginning of a first meeting. The respect you show the card equates with the respect you show the person.

Also consider...