Five things we get wrong when we say hello

16 Aug


This is Part I of a two-part series on introducing yourself.

The easiest thing in the world is saying hello. The toughest thing in the world is saying hello.

I’m not being flippant here. I’m just making the point that the way we introduce ourselves makes the difference between being remembered and being forgotten – or worse, being tuned out.

Picture this. You’re at a conference and bump into hundreds of people every day, many of whom have interesting things to contribute to your work (and we’re not talking just donors.)

How do you say hello, so that the person you’re talking to thinks, ‘This is something I’d like to know more about’?

Before we get talking about what to say and how, let’s look at the five things we often get wrong when we say hello.

  1. Throw out acronyms faster than the speed of sound.

“Hi, I’m from AICCKACKACK, and we work in CBR in MP and UP.”

Of course I’m exaggerating, but no matter how cool we think our acronym sounds, the other person hears “ack-ack” or some sound like that.

We aren’t all blessed with organisations that have names that roll off the tongue. So if we are stuck with a name that’s a tough acronym, let’s remind ourselves – the listener will not hear it. Even if he hears it, he will not remember it. So, how can I make it easier for this person? (Answers in the next blogpost – What to say when you say hello)

  1. Produce a laundry list of every single thing we do.

 “We work in rural development, female empowerment, adult education, pond restoration and sanitation.”

 Listener’s response: Blank. When we cram every single thing we do into the introduction, we ensure that the listener doesn’t remember anything.

  1. Mumble your own name.

I’ve seen this very often in workshops. We seldom think that our names might be difficult on the ear, and that it needs to be enunciated clearly. This is our one chance to get it right. “My name is Bond. James Bond.”

  1. Pack in the development jargon.

“We catalyze communities and create an enabling environment to decentralize at the state level and strengthen endowment of the local government with sufficient autonomy and resources to respond to local needs…”

Uh, what? Jargon drowns out all meaning, leaving the listener with a glazed look on her face.

  1. Make it all about I, me and myself.

This happens when we ignore where the listener is coming from, what her interests are or why he should care. So instead of leading to a dynamic dialogue, our introduction ends up being a monotonous monologue.

In our next post, we look at how to say hello and get it right.

One Response to “Five things we get wrong when we say hello”


  1. Six things to get right when you say hello | No Small Change - August 18, 2014

    […] Read Part I of this two-part series, Five Things We Get Wrong When We Say Hello. […]

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