You’ve been asked to submit a professional profile, business profile, personal bio or some variation of the term, and you don’t quite know what to write. Your name of course and your professional title, your company or organization, your credentials perhaps, but where do you go from there? Do people want to know you have three children under the age of 10, cycle to work and own a cat with yellow stripes? Well, it depends. When writing anything, always give thought to who will be reading it and why.
WHO’S YOUR AUDIENCE?
Perhaps you’ve been asked to submit a bio for a speaking engagement, in which case you’ll want to pique interest in your presentation. Or maybe you’ve been appointed to an executive position in your firm and the company wants a formal corporate profile by way of introduction to the business community. Another scenario may have you applying for a position on a board or senate where a professional profile is required. Or have you been asked to submit a member bio for a professional association website? Such a bio would be publically viewable by anyone, yet your primary audience would be your fellow members – potential business connections and even potential friends. So consider what aspect of your career and your personality you want to emphasize, given the context. The content and formality of your profile should take into account who will view it and for what purpose.
Consider the relationship. Consider the context.
HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?
It’s advisable to have well written micro, short and long versions of your bio all available in your files, and important to keep them updated. Most conference organizers or webmasters will tell you the length requirement for the occasion. When it comes to a long version, never go beyond one page. Just as people sometimes go on too long about themselves in a conversation, so too with bios. Don’t list everything you’ve ever done. Emphasize the salient points and significant accomplishments. In short, stay on message. That scholarship you won at university is likely irrelevant now but the success of your recent marketing initiative is to be celebrated. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, but keep it fresh and dynamic.
Relevant, extraneous or self-indulgent? You decide.
IS HUMOUR APPROPRIATE?
Once again, it depends… When making a presentation or offering a keynote speech, a touch of humour in your bio can be an effective means of showcasing your personality, engaging a potential audience and setting you up as an interesting speaker. If you’re in a business that involves connecting with people on a personal level, a bit of levity can encourage prospective clients to explore your website further. But there’s a fine line there too. Through the use of humour you are essentially inviting people into your social space, so if it’s a business profile for a major firm that you’re writing, think about the corporate culture before you decide how you can make the inner you stand out.
Set boundaries… If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it.
THIRD PERSON OR “I”?
A professional profile is an introduction. In most cases it’s written in the third person, using your full name to start with. After that you would refer to yourself by your first name or title, depending on formality. Think of it as another person introducing you to a group. First person bios can be appropriate in some situations too; they’re commonly used for social media profiles and occasionally on the “About” page of a business website. They’re always more personal in tone so once again, consider the audience. If asked to write a profile for a member website, check with the webmaster to see if a standard format is required.
She or I? Check out the conventions.
A FEW MORE TIPS…
CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING
To sum up, there’s no “one size fits all” format. Just as you carefully select an outfit for an important event, tailor your bio to the occasion. Power suit or classy jeans? There’s some strategy involved so take your time and do it up right.
Now, go introduce yourself!
Diane Brayman is a Kelowna-based consultant offering research, writing, editing and proofreading services for the business environment. With an extensive background in public administration, public education, parliamentary protocol and career transition services, she is well placed to assist you in developing dynamic and professional resumes, portfolios, professional bios, business documents or presentation projects. You can contact Diane at linkedin.com/in/dbrayman.