First Impressions are critical, we know this. Recently in a network I'm a part of, I participated in a cohort that lasted a month with one goal: Improve an introduction.
Whenever I've given introductions in the past, I had one of 2 problems, I'd give too much detail or I hyper simplified. My background is complex, but aren't we all? Depending on the setting, I may say that I build software or run a cleaning business or produce a podcast or write blogs. Worse than picking one of the above, I would sometimes try to squeeze in all the above.
We all want to believe that we're special. The bridge to getting others to understand what is special about us can be a frustrating one to cross, but the models I learned in this cohort helped me to create a digestible narrative for my background that feels leaps and bounds above my previous introductions in quality.
Here are the 3 takeaways from that cohort that helped me the most.
Don't let details cloud clarity.
This was perhaps my biggest problem coming in whenever I would branch beyond over-simplification and attempt a full introduction. I aim to be precise by nature and so when I'm explaining something in any domain, much less my own background, I have a natural tendency to over explain at the expense of the understanding of who I'm talking to.
One week in the cohort, we talked about a famous psychological phenomenon known as "Miller's Law", which in short suggests that the human mind can only retain 7 ± 2 details, facts, etc from an idea dump or exposure to other data. Beyond 7 or maybe 9 details for some high throughput individuals, it is not a slow decline to what we can retain and what we cannot — it's an absolute drop-off.
This totally changed my default perception that the increased description and detail added value to someone I was speaking to when in fact, it's the opposite.
Categorization = Understanding
The next thing that helped me level up my introduction game specifically was when we discussed the idea of making ourselves categorizable.
The human mind naturally categorizes people and ideas. Rather than fight this tendency (because we are all more than just simple categories) we learned that we should use this to be able to describe yourself in a unique but understand able way.
The best categorizations happen when you take two things that don't seem to go together, but when you explain them, suddenly make you both relatable and interesting to think about.
I was able to use this idea of blended categorization to make sense of how I am a tech CEO, but also the executive producer of a podcast among other things.
- "I build things that connect people and ideas"
- "WAND is a mobile app to connect customers to cleaning suppliers"
- "The Vance Crowe Podcasts connects it's audience to ideas that are 'up-the-graph'"
The clarity I achieved by doing this was orders of magnitude higher than if I had attempted to layout all the details of what I do in various domains.
Only Stories that Can Be Retold Matter
When we came to this concept in our speaking gym cohort, I loved it because it was the touch of clarity needed to create a fuller understanding of how to have a better narrative as a whole. What is it that makes a story retell-able? Vance who was leading our gatherings brought this idea to the group with the context of the different patterns for an introduction that I'm going to botch a bit by comparing to the Mandarin language intonations.
Vance pointed out that there are 4 different types of introduction that are ironically very similar to the intonation patterns above:
- The 'Everything is always Perfect' Trap
- The 'Everything just kept getting better and better' Rise
- The 'I woke up and it was all down hill from there' Fall
- The 'Root for me' Conflict/Resolution Arc
#3 and #4 are flip flopped from the above image, but the main idea is to tell a story like #4 that features a opening state that is interrupted by a challenge, then describing how you overcame that challenge and are on an upwards trajectory that those listening should root for.
For me, I opened with the broader intro I mention above but then go on to note the conflict I faced with WAND at the start of Coronavirus and how we overcame this challenge by repurposing our infrastructure to connect people and ideas in other domains.
Those familiar might appreciate drawing the comparison to elements of fiction arc here seen here:
I can tell you first hand that the ideas presented here have the potential to change how you give introductions now and forever. If you found these ideas useful, we cover them in more detail and many more in a course we created after the cohort to teach others these same ideas. You can check that out if you're interested HERE.