Networking: The Art of Storytelling

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to attend a young professional networking workshop. I know what you are thinking… networking workshop? But, interestingly enough, I learned a lot of great takeaways, and a vast majority of them apply to much more than your typical networking conversation.

While there were a lot of things I found helpful, the most interesting thing I learned wasn’t necessarily related just to networking. Our speaker spent some time going over the idea of a “30-second commercial” – a stump speech or elevator pitch, if you will. I’m sure this isn’t a new concept for you; they fall under various names, but essentially they succinctly cover you, your professional role and why it matters.

Naturally, the speaker encouraged everyone to create their 30-second commercials, as it is key in converting in networking settings. He outlined a three-prong approach to creating this commercial:

  • Start with an opening
  • Tell a third-party story
  • Have an appropriate follow up

Tell a third-party story.

It’s like a light bulb went off in my head! How simple, how effective, and exactly what I do all day. Our speaker’s point was that we could spend all day touting our cutting-edge capabilities, record-breaking fulfillment speed, personable customer service, or really any number of benefits; but does that stick? Chances are, your colleagues are using those exact same adjectives to describe their own companies. (Seriously! An informal survey done by the speaker had “customer service” as the number one descriptor used by roughly 90 percent of those he spoke with.)

Finding that third-party story is how to set yourself a part. PR is all about telling a story – using various mediums to tell an audience why it matters – and that’s exact what is needed here. Relate your business or your service offerings in a way that hits home with whoever you are talking to. A mother, for example, might connect with the fact that a financial services representative worked with his client to set up a college fund for children in uncertain financial markets. A newly married couple might appreciate a story from a Realtor recounting that, though they were dealing with a competitive real estate market, she was able to find another couple a home they were thrilled about.

The great third-party story, and really any story for that matter, notes the audience and draws parallel connections. So, let me ask you this – how are you telling your story?

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