How to Confidently Introduce Yourself in English in Formal and Informal Situations
One of the very first lessons that English language learners get is how to introduce yourself in English.
But do these lessons line up with what happens in the real world?
Today, I’m going to go over all the English phrases you need to meet someone new and introduce yourself with total confidence in both informal and formal situations, even if you’re just starting to learn English for beginners.
- How to Introduce Yourself in a Casual Setting
- Introducing Yourself in a Professional Setting
How to Introduce Yourself in a Casual Setting
Before we look at these expressions to introduce yourself in English, you may be wondering how you’ll ever practice or remember them all.
FluentU makes it easy by naturally teaching you common English words and phrases with entertaining videos, from greetings and introductions to everything else.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
These are the videos that native speakers actually watch, like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches and more.
Every video comes with built-in learning tools like interactive subtitles (click any word for an instant definition!), flashcards, fun quizzes and vocabulary lists. It’s a fun way to build your confidence for real-world conversations.
For example, check out this clip from “The X Factor,” where you’ll hear an American English speaker introduce himself and talk about himself with the competition judges. It’ll give you a great idea of how introductions work in real English conversations.
Watch that video (and the full FluentU library) with all the learning features by signing up for a free FluentU trial.
1. Remember These Phrases to Break the Ice
“Break the ice” is a common English expression. It means “to get comfortable with someone.”
There are many ways to start talking to someone new. I recommend that you memorize only two or three, so you don’t forget them.
Pick ones that you can use anywhere, anytime. Which ones sound most natural to you? The most important thing is that you’re comfortable saying them when you introduce yourself.
Here’s the easiest one: just say hello and your name. Then, if possible, shake hands.
Amy: Hello. I’m Amy.
(Offer your hand.)
Brian: Hello, I’m Brian.
Amy: Nice to meet you.
See? It’s that easy. You can also break the ice by using other common greetings like “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening.”
After the first greeting, the best way to break the ice is to ask for very basic information. This gives you a reason for starting the conversation.
Here are some examples:
How are you?
Where are you from?
What are you doing here? or What brings you here?
Are you having a good time?
Another great ice breaker is a compliment. Find something you like about them and tell them.
Just be a little careful here when picking an object to compliment. A good rule of thumb is to avoid discussing permanent characteristics (e.g. someone’s physical appearance, accent, etc.) because it can really come off wrong. They might be offended or think it’s too forward (overly-friendly).
Instead, try a compliment like these:
I love your dress.
You have a beautiful dog.
Is that your car? I really like it.
2. Prepare Basic Answers About Yourself
Prepare some basic answers about yourself now, so that you can introduce yourself with confidence and perfect English in the moment.
Keep your answers short and simple so you have less time to make mistakes—and less time to lose someone’s attention!
Have answers ready for these questions:
Where are you from?
What do you do?
What are you doing here?
Do you like your job?
How was your trip?
Are you having a good time?
What do you think of the weather?
What do you think of the movie/event/conference/restaurant?
Even when questions are specific, you can have a general response prepared. Say something generally positive, then add in more detail. Adding the detail keeps the conversation interesting. Then you can ask a question.
Brian: What do you think of the restaurant?
Amy: It’s really nice. I especially liked the fish. Did you?
Brian: How do you find the conference?
Amy: It’s really interesting. I especially liked the first speaker. What did you think?
Brian: How was your trip?
Amy: It was mostly fine. I only had one layover. How was yours?
3. Ask Follow-up Questions to Spark a Conversation
Now you need to keep the conversation going. Part of introducing yourself is letting the person you’re talking to introduce himself/herself, too.
To do this, have more simple questions ready. Like before, have three or four questions memorized. These questions can be more general to spark a real conversation.
Questions are always better than comments, because they make the other person talk, and this gives you time so that you can think of new things to say.
Did you read the news about _____?
Have you seen [movie/TV show]?
Do you like this neighborhood/bar/city?
You can also use some of the questions that we discussed in section two.
4. Ask Even More Questions to Keep the Conversation Going
If you aren’t confident in your English skills, it’s much easier to listen to the other person than it is to speak.
Pay attention to the answers from your first questions and ask for more details. People like talking about themselves, so this won’t be a problem. Below are some sample conversations.
Amy: How are you?
Brian: A little tired.
Amy: Why is that?
Brian: I didn’t sleep well last night.
Amy: I’m sorry to hear that. What went wrong?
Brian: I’m a bit jet-lagged from my flight.
Amy: I bet. Where did you fly from?
Brian: I came from London last night.
Amy: That’s far! Was it a long flight?
Brian: Just a few hours. But I had a long layover in Frankfurt.
You can see how Amy keeps the conversation going each time by asking Brian for more information. When she does this, she also learns more about him.
Let’s look at another example:
Amy: Where are you from?
Brian: I’m from England.
Amy: Wow! That’s far! When did you arrive?
Brian: I flew in last night.
Amy: Was it a long flight?
Brian: Just a few hours. But I’m still feeling jet-lagged.
Amy: What’s the time difference?
We can see how this conversation is a little different, but the same questions still work.
When we meet people, we usually have similar conversations to introduce ourselves and get to know each other better. That’s why it’s important to practice these introductions and memorize some of these common questions.
Let’s look at one more example. Let’s say Amy and Brian are both at a business conference.
Amy: What are you doing here?
Brian: I’m here for the conference.
Amy: So am I. What company are you from?
Brian: I’m with the Sales team from Samsung.
Amy: That’s really interesting. Do you like it?
Brian: Most of the time, yes.
Amy: What do you like about it?
Brian: I get to travel to nice conferences like this!
When you’re traveling for business, asking what people do for work is always a safe bet. However, be careful to keep the conversation positive. Don’t say anything bad about their work in case they disagree with you!
5. Have an Exit Plan
Not all conversations are going to be good.
If you find you have nothing more to say or you’re not connecting with the person you’re talking with, you need a way to leave politely. Otherwise, there could be a lot of awkward silences. Here are a few key lines for leaving politely:
Excuse me, I need to [find my friend/go to a meeting]
Well, it’s been lovely talking to you.
Best of luck.
Nice to meet you, Brian.
I hate to run off, but I need to go.
Let me give you my card before I go.
Enjoy your time here!
As you say these phrases, hold out your hand for a handshake, making it clear that you’re ending the conversation.
6. Smile and Be Confident!
You’re your own biggest judge.
Most people will be happy that you came and talked to them. Even if you make a mistake when you introduce yourself, keep talking. People will remember your smile and your confidence more than any small errors.
Finally, practice saying these expressions a few times at home or with a friend so that when you meet someone new, you’ll be prepared.
Introducing Yourself in a Professional Setting
1. Prepare Some Background Information About Yourself to Break the Ice
A professional environment, be it a job interview, a networking event or any other situation where you have to show your professionalism, is not the same as meeting a friend at a bar or introducing yourself to your classmates.
Being professional means you have to be a bit or much more formal (depending on the context), use properly constructed sentences and, above all, show the other person you’re a professional, an asset, a person worth having in their life or team.
If you’re supposed to take part in a formal, professional situation, prepare a little bit of background basic information so you can introduce yourself professionally.
Remember that first impressions are very important and normally impossible to change once they happen, so take this first step very seriously.
Instead of saying:
Hi! My name’s John.
Howdy, how you doing?
Hi, I’m John, from New York.
Good morning, my name is John Doe. Very nice to meet you.
I’m John Doe from New York. Nice to meet you, Mr. Gordon.
Good morning, sir. My name is Doe, John Doe. I come from the New York office.
Good afternoon, Mr. Gordon. I’m John Doe from New York. I have heard a lot about you.
It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Gordon. My name is John Doe. I just arrived from New York.
2. Prepare a Short Presentation About Your Career Background
In your head! You don’t need to go to the event with a projector and show them a PowerPoint presentation on who you are and what you do!
This will be the first real piece of information about you that these new people will be getting after you have introduced yourself, so be specific and choose the skills and qualities that match the kind of situation you’re in.
You don’t want to “kidnap” the conversation and make it all about you, and you also don’t want people to get bored because you’ve decided to tell them in detail what you did while you were working in Argentina for that amazing insurance company.
Be precise! If they have any questions, they’ll ask, and you can always introduce part of your story later in the conversation when it fits much better.
Let’s have a look at how our two friends, Amy and Brian, could briefly talk about their career background and make a good first impression:
Amy: I work for an IT company in Lower Manhattan. or I’ve been working as an editor for Select Magazine for 15 years.
Brian: I’ve been working as a freelance translator since 2002. or During the last 10 years, I’ve been in charge of managing translation projects related to marketing.
Avoid saying too much at this point, and try not to give too much information if it doesn’t suit the conversation.
Here’s an example of something you should avoid saying right away:
I’ve been a freelance translator for 20 years. When I finished studying Translation and Mediation, I decided that I wanted to start looking for a job, but finding a good one was so difficult that I gave up three weeks later. I started my own business and began looking for big clients so that I could get a stable income. A couple of years later I moved to Bosnia, and…
Remember to also show interest in the other speaker/s after you’ve introduced yourself and your career status. You can add one of the following questions at the end of your “presentation”:
What about you, Mr. Gordon?
Do you have any experience in IT?
What do you do for a living, Mr. Gordon?
I’ve heard you work in … as a …, don’t you, Mr. Gordon?
3. Prepare Relevant Information About Yourself Beforehand
As the conversation goes on, the situation you’re in will determine what you speak about.
If you’re on a job interview, you most probably will have to answer questions about your last job, your experience in this and that field, or your strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re networking or are taking part in a professional event like a convention or a business meeting, you’ll probably get asked several different questions depending on the kind of event you’re in.
Regardless of the kind of event and the type of questions you get, make sure you’re relevant and of value, and always try to answer the questions directly and to the point (unless they’re uncomfortable or very out-of-place).
When you’re getting ready for the event, try to think of possible questions you might get and how you’d answer them. Preparing in advance will help you know what to say when you’re actually asked those questions, and give you some confidence to answer other questions that you might not have prepared for specifically.
Whatever you’re answering, remember to stay on topic and avoid going off on a tangent (changing the topic or talking about unrelated things).
Here are a couple of examples of things you shouldn’t say unless specifically asked about (which would be weird, nonetheless):
Oh yes, I love kittens!
I think McDonald’s has the best coffee in town.
Facebook is full of handsome men and pretty women.
Instead, you might say the following:
I own my own translation company and I have four employees.
My biggest strength is being able to adapt very easily to almost any kind of situation.
I find it interesting that more and more people are deciding to attend this kind of convention.
I’m so glad you just asked that. As a matter of fact, yes, I am married and I have four amazing kids.
Note that this final answer to a potential question would be fine in a professional or networking situation, but it’s not okay for an interviewer to ask you about your marriage, children or family life—at least if you’re interviewing in America.
4. Think of Things That Make You Unique
Have you lived in five different countries? Are you a polyglot (a person who knows a number of languages)? Did you graduate with honors?
During a job interview or a professional event, there will come a time when you’ll have to brag (boast proudly about yourself) a little bit about yourself.
Use that moment to shine like a diamond and show you are a valuable asset and a person worth keeping close.
Be unique, be brilliant and do it in a professional way!
Make a list of things that make you professionally unique. It can be anything you’ve achieved in your life that makes you feel proud of yourself.
Don’t lie, exaggerate or beautify what you say. Honesty will get you further than lies, so don’t say you speak Swahili fluently if you actually only know a few words in that language.
Read what Amy and Brian have to say about their professional lives. Aren’t they something?
Amy: I met Bill Gates in 2005 when I was working as an assistant. He shared some thoughts on building your own brand. That was a turning point in my career.
Brian: I used to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I got to work with the Institute for Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law. This allowed me to have an insight on the topic, which has certainly proved to be valuable for my job as a translator.
Avoid talking about things that could be detrimental (negative) for you or are so unimportant that they’re not even worth mentioning:
I’m punctual and very responsible.
My mom always packs lunch for me. (Seriously, Brian?)
I lived in Bosnia, where the food is amazing.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Introducing yourself professionally and being able to hold a formal conversation in such a (sometimes) stressful environment can be daunting (difficult, intimidating), but if you get ready beforehand and prepare some sentences and answers before you enter the situation, you’ll be much more confident and calm.
Before you go to that professional event, it can help to practice possible conversations as much as you need until you feel comfortable and happy with your answers.
You can never predict (figure out beforehand) exactly what a conversation will look like, but you can be prepared for the most common situations! And the more comfortable you are answering the basics, the more confident you’ll be when the conversation goes somewhere that you didn’t expect.
Watching some videos of other people having professional interactions is also a very helpful step to becoming confident. FluentU has a few videos that can help, like this cute animated video that gives tips for doing well on your job interview or this excellent video example of how to move from small talk to business discussions (an important skill to know if you’re in business!).
Remember that being professional doesn’t mean having the best credentials or having graduated from the most prestigious universities. Being professional means knowing how to behave in a formal professional environment, knowing what to say at every specific moment and, all in all, acting in a way that will make people understand you’re reliable, competent and an expert in your field.
Here you have a final example of a conversation between Brian and Amy. They’re at a marketing convention, and they just got to know each other thanks to a mutual (common) friend:
Brian: Good morning, nice to meet you, Ms. Poltino. My name is Brian Gordon. Mr. Standford talks wonders about you.
Amy: Nice to meet you, Mr. Gordon. Please, call me Amy. So, what’s Mr. Standford saying about me?
Mr. Standford: I was just telling Brian about your amazing career and your recent move to San Francisco.
Brian: I love San Francisco! How are you liking it, Amy?
Amy: I love it here, the atmosphere is wonderful. Where are you from, Mr. Gordon?
Brian: Please, call me Brian. I was born in London but I only lived in England for six months so I really consider myself to be American.
Amy: Sounds exciting! I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve always wanted to visit Spain, but I got promoted to manager at my job and I’ve been very busy since. Where do you work, Brian?
Brian: I’ve been a freelance translator for 20 years. I have a passion for languages. What about you, Amy? Mr. Standford told me you work for an IT company downtown?
Mr. Standford: Nokia, can you imagine?
Amy: That’s right. I’ve been involved in some Nokia IT projects since 2014. I recently got an offer to come to San Francisco and I didn’t want to waste such a huge opportunity.
Brian: Sounds amazing.
Mr. Standford: Brian, did you know that Amy knows Bill Gates?
Brian: Really? Impressive!
Amy: Thanks! I met Bill Gates in 2005 when I was working as an assistant. He shared some thoughts on building your own brand. That was a turning point in my career.
Brian: Sounds amazing…
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run. It’s been lovely talking to you about how to introduce yourself in English!