How to Write Bios that Don’t Bore

by Susan Varty, Managing Partner

 

Writer’s Note: This post is about how to write short biographies (bios) for proposal documents, event speakers, LinkedIn summaries, and other short form content profiling individual executives.

Bios don’t have to be boring if you ask the right questions. And even if you are working with an existing bio, these questions will help you prioritize what to keep and what to exclude in your final version.

The answers to these questions will create a benefits-first bio instead of a list of boring facts about someone. Bottom line – an engaging bio tries to describe what is it really like to work with someone.

Start with questions about “working style”:

  • Why do people enjoy working with you?
  • What do they appreciate about you at work?

Then ask about their current role and skill set:

  • What is your future mandate? Or, what are you building long-term at work?
  • What initiatives at work do you enjoy and why? Or, what makes you proud of your career?
  • What do you “bring to the table” in your role? Or, what do you want to be known for?

Then, be sure to:

  • Remove any mention of years of experience. This makes your bio generic and who really cares anyway?
  • Use their first and last name in the first line for SEO purposes and so their name is featured/remembered (if writing in 3rd person).
  • Keep or remove their list of past experiences (consider this optional material).
  • Add any board, committees or hobbies (also optional).

Activity:
Interview someone in the workshop with these questions. Write a few lines of the bio doing your best to avoid generic phrases. How is it different from the bios you see often?

P.S. A biography should really be only three or four paragraphs. Where appropriate, you can also add a “call to action” at the end. For examples, “please email Susan at [email address] for more information about HeadStart’s writing workshops.”

P.P. S. Examples are available by request only because they are based on real people. (Bios lose impact when we post generic examples.)

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

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