Hearing the elevator speeches of several people at a couple networking events my immediate thought was one of two things:
I just heard the opening of their resume. – or – They just rehashed their business card.
I actually try to figure out what they are really saying and to remember it. I do, with all my little might I try. But I can’t. Look guys, this is my business, me more than anyone needs to be able to understand what you are saying – and I can’t. And that is after trying really hard.
So if I can’t do it what do you think the average Joe Schmoe who you are networking with is doing?
Mentally moving on to “where is the food”, “who else can I talk to” or “my goodness, don’t they ever shut up?”
Seriously – these are thoughts running through their head. I’m just the one that will tell you this.
But, wait, you worked really hard on your networking speech – you are using all the keywords and telling people what you do or what you are looking to do and have it down pat.
Yes, and it is in the wrong communication so you are boring everyone and loosing your audience.
The biggest problem I hear is that people are talking the way they write. It is not the same. With the exception of emails, the written word is longer, more descriptive, more indepth and – dare I say – dry. When composing a written message time is taken to make sure you answer the questions the reader might have and this means it is more expansive.
It also means you use “fancier” wording because it is in writing, you can’t take it back, it is out there and can be re-read several times so you want to sound smart.
It also means that most of the time your voice is not echoing in the message. That is why it is dry.
But when you are face to face with someone using that same speech that you have written out on your business card or resume sounds – well, ick. Yes, this is a professional speaking using the word “ick”. Some other descriptive words could be: boring, lifeless, stiff, vague, complicated, un-engaging, one-sided, flat, void – you get the picture.
Think about the last networking event you went to and the people that you met. How many do you remember and what do you remember about them? Was it what they do or what they were wearing or how they behaved?
Did you immediately classify them into the networking categories: professional networker, skeezie guy, the clueless or the card player?
The professional networker attends all the events, knows all the people and is sure to tell you how they make all the connections because they are so in the know. The ones that brag about it really don’t, they are a rock star in their own mind alone.
The skeezie guy (or girl) is there hitting on all the opposite sex. Some are more subtle about it and some are just plain creepy about it. They are easy to spot and as an individual can I just tell you that you are just plain creepy.
I used to try to be nice and gently avoid or walk away from skeezie guy, but every once in a while you will find one that just doesn’t get it and thinks he is all that and the bag of chips. Ladies, let me share a tip on how to get rid of skeezie guy, especially if he has a wing man (and this poor guy is normally a nice guy).
At some point skeezie guy will try to make a move by saying something stupid like, “you know you want to meet with me or oh I can really make your business grow (with the creepy smile or wink full of innuendo). Simply cut him at the knees.
Smile sweetly, look as innocent as possible, make sure wing man is in earshot and shoot him down. Reply with something like, “Actually, no, I can’t imagine anything that you can do for me, but good luck with that line on someone else.” Smile nicely to wingman, shake his hand, tell him it was nice meeting him and walk away.
Wingman will love you, skeezie guy will avoid you and you can go find real connections.
Back to the types: the clueless are still unsure of what networking is and what they should be doing and the card player is all about passing out their card and collecting as many others as they can.
To stand out from the types be yourself.
When you introduce yourself actually talk to the person in front of you as a real person. Don’t give them a pre-recorded keyword rich spiel. They are a human, talk to them like it and let them see you as a real person.
At one networking event I was talking to three people, two of whom I knew one I did not. One of the guys I knew is a treckie or star wars geek – I’m not sure the appropriate language but you get the point. He likes sci-fi and all that it includes. So when the new guy asked what I did I nudged treckie friend with my elbow and I told new guy I was a transformer.
Treckie guy laughed and new guy asked what that meant. I explained I transform peoples value in their voice into their message on LinkedIn, resumes, networking and business communication.
I adapted it at the moment for those standing right in front of me. It helped engaged all three and we were able to take the stiff business side out of our introductions.
What is the bottom line value that you offer? Just tell them that in a genuine, person-to-person short conversation.
Remember: titles are forgotten, speeches are ignored but people are remembered.
How do you make yourself memorable?
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW