I hate giving my spiel. We all have one – that sound bite that’s supposed to deliver who you are, what you’re good at, and why whoever you’re talking to should care. It should be charming, concise, and casual. Basically, it’s the professional version of the “no make-up selfie.” It should appear natural and effortless, but doing it well actually takes a lot of forethought and practice.
Currently, my spiel goes something like this:
While I believe it is a universally understood truth that these spiels are the worst, they are a necessary evil, particularly when you’re pursuing side income (like me as a freelancer or otherwise). Whether you’re networking, interviewing for a gig or meeting new teammates, it’s just unavoidable. So what are we to do? Well, workshop our spiels.
Enter Holley M. Kholi-Murchison. She’s a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur, artist, and author who specializes in raising marginalized voices and helping people effectively introduce themselves. The idea is that better, more authentic introductions lead to better, more authentic relationships and, ultimately, better opportunities.
Tell me about yourself: A 6-step process
WePresent recently hosted a six part audio-visual experience that breaks down Murchison’s method to answer the dreaded “Tell me about yourself.” The whole process is meant to take 30 or so minutes (which isn’t nothing). You’ll also need some paper and a pen. Don’t worry, I did it first and I'll document my experience below.
Step 1: Pick a scenario
Think about when it’s been a challenge to introduce yourself. This could be an interview, conference call, dinner party – anything, really. I decided to go with a job interview.
Step 2: Define your audience
Get specific about who your audience is. Think about their relationship to you and how many of them there may be. What do they already know about you? What do they want to know?
Ok, so at a job interview, I’m probably talking to someone 1 on 1. They are either in marketing, creative, or some sort of HR role. They’ve probably seen my resume and want to know how I work, what I’d bring to the team, and how I might help them reach their business goals.
Step 3: Pick your response time and desired outcome
How much time do you want to dedicate to your intro? You want to be clear, but you don’t want to monologue. Then, what is the emotion you want to evoke in your audience? What is the action you’d like them to take?
I think at a job interview, 1.5 to 2 minutes is probably the appropriate amount of time to respond to “Tell me about yourself.” Afterwards, I’d like my interviewer to feel relieved or like they can finally stop searching for a candidate. I’d like them to feel excited about working with me and optimistic about our partnership. I’d like them to send me a contract.
Step 4: Reframe the question
Instead of answering “tell me about yourself,” think about the information your audience really wants to know and then create a new question in your mind that has a clearer answer.
Ok, now I feel like we’re getting to the good part. For my hypothetical job interview, I’m actually answering the question, “Why would I be successful in this role?” But let’s reframe that question to something even more interesting. How about, “How does your approach to work set you up for success?”
Step 5: Brainstorm
Now it’s time to answer this new question you reframed in step four. Murchison outlines four key facets that could make up the meat of your response.
- Your background and interests (experiences that have molded you)
- Your values and beliefs (your moral compass, the things you’d fight for)
- Passions, dreams and aspirations (how you want to contribute to the world)
- Skills and achievements (what you do to achieve those passions, dreams and aspirations)
Now you take time to brain dump some potential talking points for each of these categories. Highlight or circle the things that overlap. I’m not going to bore you with my whole brain dump, but here are some of the key points I pulled:
1. Your background and interests
- Love of language / having fun with words
- Connecting to people through humor
2. Your values and beliefs
- Teamwork and collaboration
3. Passions, dreams and aspirations
- Working across disciplines to create great creative work
- Building brands that people can trust
4. Skills and achievements
- Defining and developing brand tone of voice
- Award-winning campaigns
Step 6: Draft your new response
Remember that this is just the jumping off point. You want this to start a conversation and build a connection, so (per Murchinson’s instruction) keep it to nine sentences or less. Extra credit if you can end with a question.
Ok, here I go:
In the same vein, I invest a lot of energy into building relationships with my team. Incredible work requires the expertise of more than one person – really more than one function. Also, working with a team is more fun and, as I’ve said, I’m a fun girl.
I take a similar approach when it comes to building relationships with audiences. We know an authentic brand voice with a clear personality is what builds loyalty and advocacy. I’ve seen it to be true in my work across industries, geographies and customer touchpoints. If you think about the ads that stick with you, they probably made you feel understood in some way, or at least made you laugh, right?
Ok it still needs some work, but those nine sentences are a lot better than what I started out with. I will say, this whole exercise took a lot longer than 30 minutes. I think I spent at least an hour and a half doing this (and I’m not including writing about it).
Reframing your introduction: My takeaways
So do I think it’s worth it? Yes. As an exercise to prepare to write a personal website or interview for a job, absolutely. Do I think it’s a little intense to go through the process just to introduce yourself to a new friend? Maybe, but hey! If it’s helpful, why not?
I think the real game changing piece of advice here is to reframe the prompt “Tell me about yourself” into something that is more concrete and interesting to answer. I think that alone will help you a lot the next time you have to give your spiel.
If you want to learn more about Holley M. Kholi-Murchison’s work and how to own your story, I highly recommend their book.