Have you ever been asked to provide a bio, only to think, “Bio? Why do I need a bio?” You may also be wondering how a bio is different from a résumé or C.V.
A bio is a promotional summary written in essay format highlighting the most important aspects of you and your experience. Bios come in varying lengths from 50 words to 250 words.
A résumé (or C.V.) is a linear, bulleted list of accomplishments and jobs held, typically used when seeking a job.
If you’ve come from the corporate world, it’s likely that your first bio will sound rather stilted and résumé-like (that’s code for uninteresting). Our brains have been conditioned to expect fast-paced moving images, so culturally think about what you are up against. The eyeballs only latch onto info for more than a few seconds, so attention needs to be snatched right away. With each intriguing thought, the pull to keep reading strengthens.
So, how do you cut through the mumbo-jumbo to reveal the real you? Let’s be honest, reading a bio can be a tough task if it bores you to tears from the get-go. On the other hand, if you can build on a strong opener, you may be able to grab that short MTV-induced attention span for just a little bit longer. (Unless you’re an egocentric tool who wants to put a reader down for a nice long nap with boring corporate-speak.) Here are a few guidelines to follow to make your bio shine.
The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid – for those uninitiated) does apply here. Keep your bio short, sweet, and leaving the reader wanting more.
First off…..Welcome, Stranger!
Invite your readers in with an intriguing question or statement, or even a bit of self-depreciating humor that tickles their curiosity. Why might this reader want to sit down with you and share a drink? You want to entice the right people to want to work with you and entrust you with their project. Come up with something that has them saying, “Hey, I must work with you.” Take it back to dating – why is the reader going to continue a conversation with you rather than the schlub down the other end of the bar?
Avoid Corporate-Shill-ery – No One’s Buying It
Be real and share a tidbit of what keeps you going on a daily basis. Try to explain that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction you get when a plan comes together or your client’s eyes light up overseeing the fruits of your labor.
Keep it Conversational
Create a comfort level and entice your reader to learn more. You don’t want to speak above the reader, so bring your bio down-to-earth. If a future client or strategic partner were sitting in your living room drinking tea, what would you say about yourself? Tweaks the tone and hone your message.
Share a Philosophy or Value
People like people who can see the bigger picture. Share a philosophy or value that shows you understand life, why things happen, or what it all means in the long run. What keeps you from running back to a corporate gig? (Free K-Cups in the company break room aside.)
What Makes You Different?
No, we don’t mean the strange sound you make when you get up off the couch or the weird condiment you put on an otherwise traditional food, but rather what qualities do you bring that helps you get the job done more effectively than others in your field? Is it your ability to get results? Or the way you can relate to and ease a worried client?
Open Up a Bit
Share a one of your quirks or short tale that demonstrates a situation where your direct action resulted in success. Real people love real world examples of getting the job done in an out-of-the-box manner. They may not remember that name of the award you won, but they’ll hold onto a success story. (Ninja trick: nothing cements a relationship faster than being vulnerable enough to share a story of failure, which was ultimately overcome.)
The Like Factor
People want to work with people they like, plain and simple. Even I want to steer people I care about more work and referrals – and even bring them in on projects of my own. (You want to create the opposite feeling of working with the cable company, am I right?) So, without sounding like a desperate teenager looking for a prom date, come up with something that portrays your likeability. You know you’re a cool cat, so relay that in a subtle manner.
Break it Down for Your Audience
Grab a big o’can of “Jargon-B-Gone” and use it liberally when writing your bio (or any writing for that matter). People may not know your industry’s jargon. Break it down in real, easy-to-understand simple English. (Ninja trick: how would you explain it to your grandmother?)
Ease the Ego
Instead of a laundry list of your accomplishments, give a broad view of why what you’ve accomplished matters, and don’t appear as if you are all about stroking your ego. We both know you’re pretty awesome – trust me. Brene Brown has a great mantra by which she lives, “Don’t shrink, don’t puff up, stand in my sacred ground.” How can you share your authenticity without shrinking or puffing up, while honoring yourself and your experience?
Would You Read It?
Finally, re-read what you wrote. Share a draft with two or three trusted readers. How do they respond? They may even give some insight into the way you operate that you may not have even been aware of – then incorporate that.
Here are brief examples of a sucky bio and a riveting one:
Jane Flugel graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University with a degree in psychology. After working in the corporate world for 27 years as a clinical psychologist, Jane launched her own coaching business, HeadShrinkers, which helps middle-aged women tap into their power and take decisive action.
When Jane Flugel rappelled down the side of Mount Rushmore and felt a burst of adrenaline, she knew she could no longer be held captive by “The Man.” Shedding her clinical psychology practice of 27 years, Jane launched HeadShrinkers, a private coaching business which supports middle-aged women transitioning from “meh” to “Shazam!”
How can you “un–suckify” your bio?
Download our FREE “How to Get Noticed” guide, which includes detailed instructions for writing your sparkling bio.