In my quest to be social, and not just on social media, I attended quite a few live business networking events this year. Conferences, conventions, and summits. Panels, presentations, and coffee dates.
My goal was to meet & greet, see & be seen as much as possible. I can only get so far in the bubble of my home office and my yoga pants & hoodie aren’t really a power suit.
When you’re not basking in the glow of the computer screen, the most difficult part of meeting someone new is often the first question you’re asked: So what do you do?
I heard the answer to this simple question butchered over & over again at events. Instead of answering the question, well-meaning attendees would launch into stories about what they used to do, what they wanted to do, or what they don’t do.
Very rarely did I hear someone say what they actually do.
Sure, we’re all in transition. We all feel a bit weird about declaring our work to the world. But that’s no excuse for needing a 3-minute story just to tell people how you spend 40+ hours of the week.
Know what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it. It should take 2 sentences to spit out at most. Rehearse it so that you can say it clearly & confidently.
When you use a story to explain what you do in this setting, you’re sending the message that you don’t know what you do and that it will probably be different tomorrow. Sure, that might be true but that doesn’t deliver “you want to get to know me!” message you’re going for.
Don’t be afraid to be loud & proud. Declare what you do. Answer the question!
When you’re finished, return the favor by asking your new friend.
I’ve found that being prepared with a follow up question to the obligatory so-what-do-you-do is the best way to confidently keep the conversation flowing. My question of choice has been “What’s next for you?” It gives people an easy way to talk about themselves, fills in some of the story, and presents you with possible follow-up opportunities.
Remember, stories will get you far. Just not when you use them in place of a confident, concise statement about your great work.
What tips do you have for meeting new business contacts?
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