So your company has a website and it wants to feature (as it should) short bios of its leadership team. Or, you’ve been invited to speak at a luncheon and the event planner asks for a bio to help introduce you in the program. Or, what about that simple presentation at work that needs a professional headshot and a short bio so that people from all participating teams know a little bit about you?
There are many reasons that you will need a bio for your professional career.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that writing about yourself is daunting. I’m an experienced professional writer and writing my own blogs, bio and website is the hardest task I have! This is why I suggest hiring a professional writer to compose your bio, at least the initial copy. Either you or a writer can alter it over time to reflect changes in your history or in how the bio is used.
Whether you write your own bio or have someone write it for you, you should know what you’re looking for in a solid professional bio.
4 Features of a good bio
A good bio isn’t a regurgitated resume
A good bio isn’t a list of jobs, accomplishments and data that is shared from oldest to newest.
While yes, a bio includes this information, it’s more important to share who that person is and why they are relevant.
Remember, it’s usually the person’s most recent work or project that makes them the relevant speaker so a good bio will list that first when discussing the individual’s history. Then I usually work backwards and only mention what’s relevant to the presentation.
A good bio addresses the needs of the organization or audience for whom it’s meant
If the bio is intended for an MBA students, it’s vital to show how the person being featured relates to those students. If the person is a consultant in a given industry and they are speaking at an industry event, their expertise is obviously the most important information.
What if the person’s expertise or experience is not directly related to the audience? Perhaps the person was hired to speak about an inspirational topic. Then the bio should feature how that person is inspiring or is qualified to speak to their topic.
A good bio is easily altered to fit the use
Sometimes there is only enough room in a program for 100 words and a bio needs to be easily edited down to fit that space. It might be easy to just write the short bio and be done with it, but places such as websites and other publications might warrant a longer bio. I suggest having a short and longer version of the bio.
Another altered use could be a different target audience. That kind of alteration will probably be in the lead (the beginning) to better reflect how the person relates to the audience.
A good bio has a quote or something else personal from the subject
Most bios are written in third person so a quote gives the reader a taste of the person’s personality and thoughts. It also just makes the bio more interesting!
It’s also good to have a little bit of personal information about the speaker but if possible (it’s very hard), try to avoid simply listing at the end “in so and so’s spare time, he likes to read and he likes his kids.” That doesn’t set the person apart. What does the person like doing with their family? What do they like to read? This last piece isn’t a deal breaker on if it’s a good bio or not. But it’s a way to make the bio better.
What else do you think makes a good bio? Leave your thoughts in the comments! In the meantime, check out this example of a bio I wrote (PDF) for a meat industry executive and consultant.