Networking is part of business life: we are all expected to do it and do it well. When you network, you need to be charming and memorable, while explaining exactly what you do and who you are! But how can you do it?
One thing that is key to successful networking is knowing how to tell your story. What should people remember after meeting you? How do you want to introduce yourself? And how can you connect with, well, anyone?
Here are 4 tips you can apply right away (and they might come in handy even if you’re not completely introverted):
Plan your story
Most of us understand the importance storytelling is at a markbut it’s also essential to show people the best version of you. When we introduce ourselves, we usually say what we do, what we’ve done before, and maybe where we’re from. But our story is more than our LinkedIn profile. When you meet someone, are you interested in what they do or why they do it?
Increasingly, personal storytelling is a part of life in business and technology. In fact, a Deloitte Review study a few years ago asserted that in the future, due to changing market needs and the growth of technology, we will all be changing jobs and careers more often. Therefore, “individuals will need to find other people who can help them improve faster – small work groups, larger and more diverse organizations and social networks.” In other words, networking and personal storytelling are more important than they’ve ever been.
This means that you should always have a planned story. Why did you enter your field? What is unique about you? What interests you and why? What radically changed your point of view?
The story in two words: which words should stick?
In my workshops, I often develop a two-word personal story with the participants.
The question is: what are the two words that must remain in the mind of your interlocutor after a conversation? This exercise helps you identify two main areas that are important to you.
You should try to choose two names that are very different. So not “marketing” and “communication”, but “HR” and “skateboarding”. Two terms that set you apart, but also arouse curiosity and are atypical. Often it will be something personal and something professional. Do not be afraid of opposites, because that is precisely what is most interesting and striking.
For me personally, my two words are: Storytelling, USA.
A good story should be personal
Consider why the stories of TV shows and movies stay with us. It’s because we sympathize with the characters. We want to know what will happen next for these people.
Tell people something personal.
No one expects you to reveal your deepest, darkest secrets when you first meet someone. On the contrary, you should share something that moves you, motivates you, makes you different. It could be an experience that was important to you, people who are role models for you, or why you do what you do.
So what can you say to the staff people? Think about it ahead of time, or you’ll find yourself caught in the headlights. There is no pressure to say anything you feel uncomfortable with; it’s a measured decision to expose just enough of yourself. When we open up, the one we are talking to also opens up.
There’s a great quote from Anne Simpson: “Openness creates openness.”
This offers the opportunity not only to make new contacts, but also to exchange ideas and stories with people who are or could become important to us.
We should be confident in ourselves to tell our stories and talk about what matters to us. This is especially true at a networking event, where we have limited time with people who likely share our interests and could be great business contacts.
Why Programmers Talk to Squeaky Ducks and What We Can Learn From It
When I was working in Silicon Valley, I spent a lot of time with software developers and learned the so-called “rubber duck debugging” method from them.
Originally mentioned by Andrew Hunt in his 1999 book, The pragmatic programmerrubber ducky debugging is a problem solving method.
The idea is that when a developer encounters a problem and gets stuck with their code, they should talk about it. But really they need to talk at Something. So they talk to a squeaky duck on their desk, explaining the code to him.
Going through code like this, line by line, they come to a new understanding. It could be timing the problem in the code or fixing the missing piece.
The same method can be used in storytelling. I’ll call it “rubber duck storytelling”.
How it works?
Before heading to a networking event, you should tell your story to a squealing duck, your dog, or a stuffed animal. You’ll be able to see any issues with your story and come up with ideas for additional content and potential sequels.
Just like tennis or chess, telling your story is a skill you need to learn and can improve every time you practice. Have fun with it!