Being the Best ‘Online You’ You Can Be
- by John J. McAdam
The Internet has forever changed how business relationships form. The first time someone meets you is less likely to be when you shake hands. Instead, it’ll be online. While an extrovert like me feels lonely with an online introduction, I’m learning to accept it because it’s what people do. I admit that before I have a business meeting, I research the participants quickly online. In five minutes, I know their current business role, their work history, education level and some of their personal interests. I’m not alone with this business habit. Yet I still find it creepy when someone I meet for the first time talks about me like my best friend, and I can’t even remember their name yet.
How did online introductions become the first point of contact for so many business introductions?
My guess is that online dating has forever changed the way we get to know each other—personally and professionally. In fact, some people fall in love before they even meet in person.
Let’s accept the fact that our first business introduction probably happens online, and then we can learn how to improve our business relationships. With that in mind, I took the first step and rewrote my online bio.
Why did I change my bio today? I wanted to have more people feel connected with me when they read about me online. Note that when I’m introduced to a crowd with my formal bio, I’ve learned the hard way that I have to humanize myself in an almost self-deprecating way to even begin to engage with my audience. Otherwise, people look at me as if they were just bludgeoned by the announcer. This is the opposite of what I want and who I am.
We’ve all seen these formal resume-type bios in the “About Us” sections of business websites. There, people brag about their prestigious degrees, certifications and accomplishments. They’re mind numbing because a formal bio is mostly self-centered and boring. Business people don’t want to hear about your resume; they want to engage in a business relationship that will benefit them. Business is more fun when you transact with people you like.
Therefore, in my online bio, I want to give people a reason to engage with me. I want to differentiate myself by sharing my passions about why I do what I do. So I took out a pen and paper and wrote down five reasons why I do what I do. Here’s what I wrote:
For decades, I’ve seen the many achievements that an active business planning process yields for a business. As a veteran entrepreneur, former hired CEO and business adviser, I teach Strategic Business Planning at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center. I help established business owners plan and, by doing so, avoid needless financial setbacks and employee struggles. I do what I do because I have learned the hard way that I would rather make my clients more successful than become a billionaire. My life has more meaning when I can jump from business to business and play a small but powerful advisory role to help people achieve. In fact, I take more pleasure in my client’s achievements than I do my own. I see people struggling unnecessarily in business and know that I can help them—not only because of my successes, but my failures also. Both have taught me planning tips, tools and techniques with which people can achieve.
My new bio makes me feel naked. Almost as if my audience doesn’t deserve to see my heart until they get to know me better. Can they at least buy me a drink first? My intent here is to make my bio uniquely me by making it heartfelt. When people meet me online (by reading my bio), I want them to feel close to me and have a connection with me. Being an expert in something is tricky, and admitting that I’ve learned from my mistakes humanizes me—always a good thing.
Note that I will adjust the wording and have different bios for different audiences. This is a section, not my complete bio. My bio will look different tomorrow than it does today. I confess that I will take this raw text and have a professional editor and marketer refine the copy before I publish it online. I will keep making refinements to improve that first impression. Sometimes my bio has to compete with 100 other bios for a speaking engagement. Rather than brag more loudly and longer about my expertise, I will bring my passion into the foreground—why I do what I do—and put my resume in the background. This will improve my competitive positioning among other experts with formal bios.
How about you? What does your online bio say about you?