I’m sitting with a cup of tea in St Pancras station, peering at the Eurostar arrivals.
A group of strangers, about 10 metres away, are meeting for the first time and a French lady strides over to one of their group:
“Hello, pleased to meet you,” she says, loud enough for me to hear, “I’m Selina Despolait.”
What strikes me is how she says her name. Slow, loud (without being brash), clear and confident. Her eyes are sparkling.
I, without realising, am immediately drawn to her. Wow, I think, I want to know Selina Despolait. She’s cool. She’s a leader. She’s in charge. Just out of those few seconds and 4 words, “Hello, I’m Selina Despolait,” I know everything I need to know. I want to be part of her life.
Meanwhile, Selina’s partner shakes her hand and mumbles, “Hi Selina, I’m Lauren.”
Actually, I can’t remember if her name actually was Lauren, and I can’t tell you a thing about her. Although I saw her as clearly as I saw Selina Despolait, she was invisible to me.
It got me wondering – do I speak out my name with the confidence of Selina Despolait, or swallow it in a Lauren-like mumble?
My team & I are public speaking coaches, so this stuff fascinates me. I observe speakers and presenters introducing themselves on a daily basis and there are those who own it and those who don’t. How much of my perception of that speaker is won or lost on how they say their name?
If we only have 7 seconds to make a first impression, saying your name is a core part of that. And if name-saying affects my perception of Selina Despolait and her anonymous friend in St Pancras station, how much does it affect performance at a pitch, or a job interview, or a first date?
For myself, my name’s always been a bit embarrassing, all double-barrelled and posh, something I’d rather say in a SarahLloydHughes flurry than owning the full SARAH. LLOYD. HUGHES-ish ness of it.
Selina Despolait got me thinking that our names are our brand – the only brand we will consistently carry through our lives.
Why should we undermine our brand by mumbling it?
Shouldn’t we be proud of our name (even if it is a bit weird) and say it slow and loud, with confidence and sparkle?
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The UK’s leading inspiring speaking expert & best-selling author. Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a multiple-award winning public speaking coach, founder of Ginger and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).