Many years ago I attended my first formal networking event. It was a baptism of fire on many levels. I came away from it with a number of essential networking tips on how to communicate in a business setting and beyond.
During the first half of the evening we sat around tables in groups of 8 and introduced ourselves – a kind of warm-up for having to do it later in front of the whole room.
I introduced myself as a Storytelling Strategist. The man sitting next to me responded by assuring me he would never need my services as he was a “natural born storyteller”!
For the next hour he told us story after story after story … about himself. He interrupted others, he didn’t listen when others spoke. His endless anecdotes were of no relevance to us or the event.
Ever been in the company of someone like that?
When his turn came to pitch to the whole room, he swaggered to the front and talked & talked & talked … about himself. He went over his allotted time of course. He sat down next to me and proudly announced “See, I told you I’m a natural storyteller!”
In the mix & mingle session afterwards he floated from one group to the next, to the next, shoving his business cards into the hands of everyone he came in contact with.
The essential networking tips I learned that eventing:
- Telling random stories to impress is NOT storytelling. It’s waffling.
- Sharing anecdotes about yourself is NOT connecting. It’s a verbal selfie.
- Interrupting others with your opinions is NOT having a conversation. It’s a monologue.
- Pushing your business cards, ideas & views at people is not communication. It’s self-promotional hustle.
- Going over your allotted time is NOT respectful of other people’s time. It’s rude & selfish.
- Talking non-stop is NOT networking. It’s broadcasting.
The same tips apply to networking online. The form is different, but the behavioural norms are still apply. The advantage of online networking is we can discreetly disconnect!
Then some people wonder why they don’t find networking effective or useful!
When we net-work we are creating a net, a web of connections in our field that will help us in a variety of ways.
I connected with two people that eventing and I’m still in contact with both of them Neither became clients of mine. One became a trusted mentor and friend. The other has referred clients to me over the years.
It was a very successful networking event for me on two counts:
- the networking tips learned
- the two lasting connections I made that eventing.
There are many reasons why the race to embrace storytelling in business has often ended up being a swift race to the bottom. Here’s just one example of bad storytelling advice:
“Tell YOUR story”!
The idea behind this advice is that ‘your’ story will inspire people who don’t know you to do business with you! Think about this. Would you want to do business with someone you knew absolutely nothing about after you heard them talking about themselves? No, you wouldn’t.
Why the rush to tell your story?
Plain egoism is a biggie here. There are lots of people who love talking about themselves and live under the illusion that others find their stories interesting. How many times have we been cornered at a party or a business event by someone like that? Another popular argument put forward for telling your story comes from Simon Sinek’s theory Start with Why. As I pointed out in a previous post, he applied his theory to established, well-known businesses and he has since revised his theory.
One of the keys to successful storytelling is correct timing!
No one is interested in YOUR story until they are almost ready to buy from you. So telling your story too early is bad timing and bad storytelling advice! Basic neuroscience helps us get the timing right.
When we talk to strangers, we are operating from the reptilian brain. That‘s the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival mechanism. It knows only yes/no and fight/flight responses. When we are in the reptilian brain we cannot hear the other’s story. We can only ‘hear’ someone else’s story, connect with it and respond to it after we have moved into the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotional and logical response, located in the front lobe.
How do you move someone out of survival mode into receptive mode?
Tell them THEIR story.
Until that shift in the brain has happened, the only story you should tell your potential clients is the one they are able to hear, i.e. THEIR story. That’s how connection happens! To get their story right, you have to know their story. To know their story, you have to have listened to them so closely that when you tell it, they can say:
“That’s me!” “That’s exactly what I struggle with!”, “That’s what I want now!”
If that’s not their response, you need to go back and listen again so that when you tell them their story you are holding a mirorr in front of them in which they see themselves more clearly than without it.
Only when you have successfully done that, are they are ready to hear your story. Otherwise, your story will fall on deaf ears!
If you could do with some help with telling the right story at the right time to the right audience, I’m here to help you!Learn More