Strategies for responding to “Tell me about yourself”

Last week I was in a pitch meeting with a television network. I was in the president’s office seated with six of his key executives on chairs and sofas around a large coffee table. The informal setting was cozy and the vibe was warm and friendly. After introductions, my prospective client said, “Tell me about yourself and your company.”

I started at the very beginning – sharing that my dad was a single parent who taught my sister and me the ad business at an early age. Then I gave a quick overview of my days working in radio, newspaper and finally television, where I helped launch TNT and turn CNN into The World’s News Leader. To conclude my story, I walked them through a few relevant client case studies and shared my branding philosophy and process.

Here’s what I didn’t do: whine about not having a mom growing up, elaborate on personal challenges, complain about difficult clients, lie about my accomplishments, go off on tangents, diminish my talents, overstate what I could deliver or drone on without focus.

Building a captivating story about yourself involves sharing the epic moments in your life that reveal your true character.

 
To arrive at your answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself,” it’s important that you think deeply to uncover a time when you overcame adversity. This could be the beginning of your signature story – the one where you played the superhero. Michael Margolis, Dean of Story University, talks about how most of us are reluctant or accidental heroes. He says, “Remember, you are not born a superhero. Superheroes are created based on circumstances and a choices.” What were yours?

If you walk into a pitch meeting or give a presentation without a signature story and just go though the motions of showing your work, you’ll miss making an emotional connection with your audience that will set you apart from your competition.

In addition to creating a signature story, it’s important that you demonstrate that you’re on a heroic quest. I always finish my story with my life’s mission, which is to “help professionals fearlessly achieve their potential.” I want my prospects to know that beyond delivering a transformational brand strategy, I am purposeful in my desire to inspire their employees.

If you want to play big and really make an impact in business, begin by sharing an epic story about you. The universe is waiting for you to proclaim your unique qualities. Your target audience wants to know that you can really make a difference to their organization.

When you reveal yourself through story, you honor your accomplishments and set the stage for your next triumph.

 
Here are some different forms of storytelling you can adopt courtesy of success guru Brendon Burchard:

  • Woe to Win – when you were down and out, and then you came back
  • Finding or stumbling upon the magic bullet – and everything changed
  • David versus goliath – when were you the underdog?
  • The tough choice — the other choice would’ve been easier, but this choice made you a better person
  • The switch from victim to victor — everyone has that story
  • The switch from self-absorbed to service minded – when was that point for you?
  • Family play – when did you decide that your family was important, and when did you sacrifice for them?
  • The no one believed I could do it story
  • The experience epic – 2-4 years of crap and then you came out of it a winner
  • The turnaround — when you finally decided to pursue something super meaningful

Start today writing a few different versions of your story and see which one makes you feel better about yourself. It should express what you were born to do and at the same time have a universal theme that everyone can relate to. In the end, your story should be one you feel proud to tell the world.

A quick note to those who are in the middle of a sad story: don’t let your present circumstances define you. Think back to another time when you overcame a difficult situation and let that be your story for right now. The more you tell it, the more you’ll start to believe that you are a superhero and you’ll find yourself transitioning right into a happy ending.

If your story inspires you, it is sure to inspire others.