Bios are used for all sorts of things. From websites to conference speaker notes and annual reports, your professional summary will pop up repeatedly.
I cannot stress how important it is for your bio to include information that is relevant to your industry. If you are a medical practitioner, include all the letters at the end of your name. Detail your specialities. Talk about where you studied. This is shorthand for your peers to assess you.
The nuance of a good bio is that it shows an inherent understanding of the industry you are a member of.
Advertising copywriters have outstanding bios because they are showcasing their skill: punchy copy designed to influence.
But for most of us, a bio is an overview designed to give people a quick guide to who you are and why they should care.
Key word: quick. Do not write a full-length autobiography. If you can’t fit your achievements onto one page (or better still, three paragraphs), it’s time to cull. Think of it like an IMDB profile for an actor. Prioritise the blockbusters and the Oscar winners and lose the B-grade, straight-to-DVD stuff.
It’s 100 per cent OK to adopt a conversational or casual tone if it suits your industry but avoid being profane or – worse still – ‘zany’. I don’t care if you are clown in real life; in your bio, please keep it straight.
Go crazy on the name-dropping when it comes to clients but make sure you can back it up on your LinkedIn profile or with actual examples of work. Speaking (aka slurring at) the Editor of Vogue New York after 25 Champagnes at Fashion Week does not make you a contributor.
If you’re writing for the web, link out to places where people can learn more about you – your LinkedIn profile, any feature articles quoting or profiling you, online portfolios, etc.
In summary, talk about who you are, what you do and how you came to be good at it. Include personal information if its relevant. If you are a sustainability expert, mention that your house is off-the-grid. If you are a family counsellor, mention that you have four children.
Bios are an exception to the famous literary rule of ‘show, don’t tell’. The whole point is to tell someone something about you. The ‘show’ is what happens afterwards – when the reader acts on the information and connects with you.
To learn more about the art of biography writing (the in-depth kind), click here.