When you’re networking, it’s critical to have a rehearsed elevator pitch, a brief but engaging spoken introduction about you and what you have to offer. In our book FINDING WORK AFTER 40 we call it a TMAY, which is an acronym for Tell Me About Yourself.
People want to know why they should talk to you now or see you again. That’s the purpose of a TMAY. Don’t tell your life story. You have a few precious minutes – or seconds – to give them a reason. Keep it short: two minutes is the maximum length.
Here are our top seven tips on creating and improving your TMAY:
1. Prepare it. You’ll need three types: a one or two-line version for quick exchanges; a social version for informal gatherings when you want to amuse as well as engage and impress; and a formal version for use when you have one or two minutes of uninterrupted speaking time.
Prepare your one-liner first. Here is mine: “I’m an author, speaker and workshop leader, and I help older workers find employment.” My TMAY invites questions, such as What books have you written? and How do you help people find a job? Create a statement about yourself that encourages a dialogue.
2. Have a structure. As with any speech, a longer TMAY should have an impactful opening: something that grabs the listener’s attention, a salient fact about you or your industry. Then your content must get your message across. Talk about relevant achievements from your work history that support the claim made in your opening line, then build towards a closing call-to-action. What is it you want from this person? Are you interested in meeting members of their network, obtaining advice, or exploring what the listener knows about your industry? (Remember the Golden Rule of Networking: Never ask for a job.)
Here’s an example of a structured TMAY: [Opening] I’m an international tax advisory specialist with 15 years experience in merger and acquisitions at [company name(s)]. [Content] The projects I have worked on are… I managed teams in 23 countries and helped clients achieve tax savings of, typically… I have a reputation for … [Close and call-to-action] At the moment I’m looking to expand my portfolio of private clients and I wonder if you have any contacts at local companies with overseas subsidiaries looking to optimise their tax position.
3. Be factual and specific. Talk about project budgets, sales revenues, numbers of people you managed, industry specialities and qualifications you hold. If you are talking about employers, mention company names or give an indication of the size of the company if it is not a name the listener will recognise.
4. Keep it relevant. The type of event, the background of the listener and the amount of time you have will determine which of your TMAY versions to use. At one end of the scale is the networking event where everyone has a two-minute slot to introduce themselves – this calls for a mini-speech with a structure as mentioned in No.2 above. Alternatively, you might be asked your TMAY at a chance encounter or at a social event, where a one-line response is more appropriate. You must be the judge, and only practise will make you good at this.
5. Practise, practise, practise (and get feedback). Try speaking it in front of a mirror, or recording it on video and playing it back to see what you look and sound like. Find situations (like a job club, or with a friend) where you can get feedback in a safe environment. Every time you use your TMAY, it will get better – the more you speak, the more natural it becomes.
6. Remember it’s a mini-speech. A TMAY is not a reading of your CV. Smile and make eye contact, use rhetoric and be passionate where appropriate. If you’re talking about work you loved, inspiring people you have met, and successes you are proud of, make sure your body movements and facial expressions match your words.
7. Engage the listener. Are they showing signs of interest? Are they actively listening? If not, why not? Ask a question to check for comprehension. Adapt the content to their level of understanding. Remember you are aiming to stimulate interest.
If a constructive conversation develops, or it engenders further questions, your TMAY is successful. A whole new world of contacts opens up when you introduce yourself effectively and in a professional manner.