When networking, we want to attract people to us, keep them interested and leave them with a good impression.
This is how we started our event on "How to Make an Impact" at Cambridge Business Lounge
Jon Torrens, Communications Coach, teaches people to enjoy public speaking, whether this is to a huge audience, a boardroom presentation or telling people what they do at a networking event.
I confess I had an ulterior motive for inviting Jon to be our speaker: I get bored to death with the over rehearsed, over used, bland and mostly uninteresting elevator pitches I hear at most business gatherings. This is why I ban them from events that I run.
Bewitch me with your pitch
I'd noticed at a previous event, when the task was for business owners to write their perfect testimonial, that when it came to Jon's turn to read out a fairly innocuous one he imbued it with such nuance that the whole thing came alive. I got to musing that if the next event I went to was filled with people who could articulate their pitch with the same enjoyment, fun and confidence that my world would be a better place - and so the deal was done.
Of course, the whole thing about attracting people to us starts before we open our mouths but it does involve a lot of confidence. To be self aware without being self conscious is very powerful and unfortunately, the thought of having to speak in front of an audience, however small, can be crippling. Jon's advice to overcome this first hurdle is to adopt a persona. A series of exits and entrances with Jon portraying various ways of doing this combined with hilarious and inaccurate guesses showed that perception is everything. I'm revealing nothing more about this - you'll have to book Jon for your own event see it in action!
Sticking your neck out
The next step, keeping people interested, is largely about establishing trust. In Jon's words, you have to reveal your unique characteristics - both vulnerabilities and strengths - to allow people to make a connection to you (see Jon's post 'Building Character' on discovering these qualities). Apparently, to Jon, I am 'M' as played by Judi Dench - but that's another story.
In order to establish trust, some animals show each other their neck when meeting for the first time. Try 'sticking your neck out' when speaking and see how you gain people's trust. Please don't do what dogs do - it really won't work at a business event. If you're prepared to show your vulnerability, you can become very likeable. Hiding behind a façade of false bonhomie or over confidence has exactly the effect it implies - it creates a barrier.
Leaving a good impression is a natural progression of the first two stages. Being confident and showing your authentic character will make the people you meet feel good and they'll want to meet you again.
It certainly worked for Jon - everyone left our meeting having laughed so much that we all felt great and I'm sure everyone is looking forward to seeing him again.
There's no doubt that everyone in business needs to be able to speak to an audience of any size and with coaches like Jon there are no excuses for dull and boring presentations. I'm hoping that Jon becomes the secret weapon of networking, adopts a superhero character that eliminates mumbling and bumbling, bullshit and boasting and makes business meetings a glorious playground of discovery and fun. I'm still hoping that seductive networking will catch on!
What do you do?
The meeting ended with a lively debate on the best pick-up line for a networking meeting with several people expressing their dislike for the dog-sniffing-dog opening "What do you do?" What's the best conversation opener you've heard or used? Leave us you comments and ideas below.
More tips on How to Make Networking Fun