How not to be boring while networking

Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are their own.

Charlie Lawson, author of The Unnatural Networker, and I often discuss the importance of telling a good story. Think about the last networking meeting you attended where people had a chance to introduce themselves: Were they interesting? Did they catch your attention? Were they engaging? Or did you often think: Do I really have to continue this conversation?



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Have a great story ready to tell

If you want to know that people are really listening – give them a great story. Charlie gave me an example regarding a Business Networking International member named Dena.

Dena ran a listing agency based in Yorkshire, England, specializing in short-term accommodation. One day she got a call on a cold, rainy February afternoon. Dena could tell that the lady on the line, who we’ll call “Ann,” was getting pretty upset by all the commotion with kids running around in the background. Ann had been thrown out of a house by her partner, who had left her with the children and she called to see if there was anything Dena could do to help.

“I know this usually doesn’t happen on short notice,” Ann admitted, “but I need a place to stay tonight.”

Dena managed to get her a property and told the distressed mother that they would work out the details as soon as possible the next day. Then, just as Dena was about to hang up the phone, she asked, “Where are you now?”.

Ann said that she was currently standing on the side of the road, with children in tow, along with a couple of suitcases and no ride. So Dena got in her car, picked up the crew and took them to their temporary abode where they managed to sort everything out.

After telling this story, Charlie asked me if I would ever refer Dena’s business. I answered as everyone would – with an exuberant yes!

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Reveal something they will remember

Dena realized they were in a dire situation and she could make a difference for Ann and her family.

A typical listing agent will only go as far as offering short term and last minute solutions before hanging up to approach the other person on hold. What best sells these services is the fact that we know we would be comfortable referring said agent – and that is where storytelling happens. It will be both memorable and the kind of thing we will bring up again in subsequent conversations. The next time someone asks me about listing agents, who do you think I’ll remember?

Although we may not have been in that situation ourselves, the story helps us understand how the person involved felt. Ann actually got the family into a permanent apartment, but what resonates most is how Dena served her potential client in a time of need.

Storytelling is more interesting, memorable and referable than simple facts about services you offer. Remember Why we go to networking events – to build our businesses through referrals. We need to give our network partners the tools to find these referrals, and I think effective anecdotes are a great way to do that. Plus compelling stories, as Charlie likes to say, “won’t bore people to tears”.

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