I have to confess: I am a terrible networker. After years of remedial career counseling, I still flunked Elevator Speech 101. As a Northeasterner, telling someone about yourself in an elevator just seemed wrong on a cellular level—we are forbidden from birth to talk with strangers in elevators.
So what’s a person to do, when at a business meeting or cocktail party, some asks, “So, what do you do?”
The pregnant pause. The question hangs in the air. Usually, we tend to spit out a job title or our business name. “Hi, I’m John Smith, and I’m an engineer.” Sounds like an admission at an AA meeting. You anticipate the group response, “Hi, John.”
Unless you have the gift of gab by nature or you have prepared yourself well for these situations, you may end up feeling like a deer in the headlights. You may also miss a great opportunity—the chance to make a strong, memorable first impression.
When someone states, I’m a [fill in the blank], it shuts down conversation. If you communicate the benefit of what you do, it opens conversation. A client of mine is a wonderful, exuberant event planner and a perfect example. When he responds, “I’m an event planner,” he can feels the listener filing him away with all the other event planners. Judgement made. Boom. Over.
However, when he states his benefit, “I help people remove stress from planning their events—social, corporate or non-profit.” It invites conversation. “Oh I need that. How do you do that?” He has opened up the opportunity to network effectively. The whole purpose of networking is to engage the listener in your story so that it becomes embedded in his or her memory. It is about conveying to the listener what you can do for them. The next time someone needs a party planned, they aren’t going to remember all the event planners they’ve met. They are going to call the one who will take the stress out of planning their event.
So, whether you network for business, job-hunting or social contact building, make sure you introduce yourself in a way that makes the listener want to know more. Prepare ahead of time by defining the essence of what you bring to the party, make it enticing and conversational, and practice it until it becomes second nature.
So…what do you do?
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