As a sports broadcaster and keynote speaker, I talk for a living. Striking up a conversation isn’t usually a challenge, but there are days when meeting new people feels overwhelming — like when I walk into a locker room and realize I don’t know half the guys sitting at their lockers.
When I need an interview it’s not an option to walk out and hope I feel more confident the next day. Introductions need to be made and it’s up to me to initiate that exchange.
Here’s what I’ve learned from nearly 20 years inside sports locker rooms: practice, intentionality and scripting lead to the most productive introductions.
Before you object to using scripts, consider how often you already follow them. I’ll bet you say “You too!” as an automatic response to anything that starts with the phrase, “Have a nice … day/flight/time with your in-laws.” The difference between following that kind of script and the ones I deliver on TV and radio is intentionality.
Scripts don’t make anything less genuine, less authentic or less effective unless you deliver them with a lack of interest.
I also know that scripting allows you to focus on what comes next. Meeting someone for the first time or making an introduction can be nerve-wracking and leave you tongue-tied.
Take the emotion out of it by borrowing any or all of the scripts I use every time I meet athletes and coaches for the first time.
Be direct. “My name is Jen and I’m a part of the radio broadcast team. At some point, you and I will do an interview and I didn’t want that to be the first time we talked.”
This is as basic as it gets, and it’s part of every introduction I make. Of course, I’m going to include my name and something about what I do, but I also need to set the expectation for what comes next. Without that, my new contact has no idea why I’m talking to him in the first place.
State the obvious. “I can only walk past you so many times without introducing myself before this gets awkward.”
Avoiding an introduction out of embarrassment doesn’t make the situation go away. It’s far better to acknowledge it and move past it. So when I trip over my own name or literally trip and fall into a player while introducing myself (yes, I’ve really done both those things) I don’t pretend like it didn’t happen. I will state the obvious and then be direct, “That intro didn’t go according to plan. What I meant to say was, my name is Jen and I’m a part of the radio broadcast team. At some point you and I will do an interview …”
You can do the same thing by acknowledging you’re embarrassed that you haven’t introduced yourself to the new colleague you’ve walked past for three weeks without saying hi — or you can fess up and admit you don’t know the name of the person you’ve sat across from in meetings for the last week. Don’t avoid an introduction because you’re embarrassed about something you did or didn’t do.
Call it out, acknowledge it and start over.
Ask for advice. “With so many new guys in here, I’m hoping you have some advice on remembering all the new names.”
When I ask for advice during an introduction, I’m using my surroundings to connect and create follow-up opportunities. When a player helps me out and gives me advice, it also opens the door for me to report back on how well that advice worked.
I’ll close out this exchange by being direct and making sure he knows, “My name is Jen. I work on the radio broadcast team, and at some point, we’ll be talking about more than learning names, we’ll be doing a postgame interview.”
Meeting new people shouldn’t be awkward or uncomfortable. Just follow the scripts and you’ll know exactly what to say.