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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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Imagine the situation – you are standing outside a room waiting for a seminar to start and get chatting to the person next to you. After introducing themselves they ask, “Why are you here? Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Why is talking about yourself such a difficult topic?

Whether it’s at a casual encounter in the lift or a formal introduction at a group seminar, “Tell me/us a little bit about yourself” can seem like a daunting question to answer.

“Uhh, I’m Tim. I’m a marketing and communications assistant. I’ve been working for this company for three years and uhhh, I like…cycling?”



How does this sound:

“I’m Tim. I’ve been part of the team here for almost a year now. I’m doing a lot of work with external agencies at the moment so this seminar should be really interesting. I transferred over from a similar role out in Portland. It was great over there, and I loved being able to ski in the winters, although I did miss a good British cup of tea!”

Much better, right?

To know how to answer this little question, let’s think a bit more about what it’s really asking.

When someone says “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” what is it that they want to know?

Well, in a business setting they probably don’t want your life story, but they do want to know a little more than the superficial details of your name and job title.

In a formal business setting, “tell us a little bit about yourself” can be translated as “tell us why you’re here and what you can do for us.”

Whilst also presenting yourself as a multi-faceted human being with emotions and interests, try to sell yourself a little – what experience and characteristics do you have that make you a good person to have at the table?

This is a little easier said than done, so let’s look at some tips for talking about yourself…

Business Introduction Top Tips

  • Know your audience; think about who you are introducing yourself to. What do you already know about them? What do you think they’ll be interested to learn about you?
  • If you are at a meeting or seminar, talk about why you are there – what are your relevant strengths and experiences. What can you bring to the table?
  • Keep it light and friendly – a little self-deprecating joke or funny comment can often help to break the ice and make people feel more at ease. (Notice how Tim made a jokey reference to his yearning for a cup of tea). It will also make you memorable.
  • Err on the side of caution, though – if you’re not sure if your joke will be well-received, it’s best not to chance it.
  • Try to include interesting or memorable information about yourself. Make it relevant though, and give it context. Saying “I’ve climbed thirty mountains” without this being particularly relevant to the conversation just sounds like irrelevant boasting, and does not make you or your company seem humble.
  • Be positive about the whole experience – if it’s relevant, make sure to mention that you’re excited to be there and looking forward to the upcoming work.

For further reading, check out these articles on How to Introduce Yourself and How to Introduce Yourself in a Meeting by Lisa B. Marshall for useful insider tips on how to introduce yourself in a business setting.