Monday, July 26, 2010

Networking Made Memorable through Storytelling

Relating to different people by sharing stories
Another networking opportunity
Did you know I once slept in Elizabeth Taylor's bed?

Why have I never told you that story? Perhaps you have a great story too that you've never told me?

The indispensible Scott Adams wrote a stimulating blog post with the amazingly boring title Active Listening. (Important though the concept is, a title like that usually makes me tune out.) Most of the post is basic Dale Carnegie stuff (seek first to understand and only then to be understood, etc.) but there is a nestled gem lurking in the penultimate paragraph:
Most people have at least one good story in them. And you can usually find that story by asking where the person lived and what their parents did for a living.
Networking is much much more fun when you can get people to talk about unusual things. It's always more interesting precisely because it's unusual, and who doesn't like things that are more interesting? It's also more memorable and, as Adams points out, it leads to deeper and more meaningful connections with people.

What's interesting? Well...

As a general rule, the more dangerous or inappropriate the conversation, the more interesting it is. You'll have to use your judgment to know when you've crossed the line.

Also as a general rule, conversations about how people have or will interact are interestig, and conversations about objects are dull. So steer toward topics that involve human perceptions and feelings, and away from objects and things.
Now, the next time you and I are together, perhaps at a networking event, you don't need to resort to asking about my parents' occupations or my hometown (which you can find on Facebook anyway.) Instead, ask me to tell you about Elizabeth Taylor's boudoir, or about the time I...
  • Got in a fistfight in Death Valley
  • Had a conversation with a  fellow in our only common language--Latin
  • Saw Bill Gates dancing on a table, waving a bottle of champagne
  • Experienced the Night of the Flying Lobster Legs
  • Found the (only) pilot of the plane smoking in the bathroom while flying to Timbuktu
  • Had the picture at the top of this post taken
There are only 3 conditions:
  1. I will only tell you a story in person; no use trying to get me to write these or tell you over the phone
  2. Only one story per get-together (we can always meet up another time!)
  3. You must tell me an interesting story about yourself as well
So, let's get coffee at Tully's or somewhere, and I'll tell you a story.

I found the Scott Adams post in today's Smart Brief on Leadership, one of several email digests for which you can sign up free.

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