Guest Post by Cat Lam, April 2017
If you’re anything like me, I’m naturally an introvert. I am uncomfortable in large group settings. However, I know that if you want to build your network, there is only so much you can do online. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to suck it up and interact with people real time. Like physically. As we have progressed some 20 years into this new digital age, online presence climbs higher up the networking ladder. It seems like it takes so much more effort to get out there and attend networking events, or meet someone in person. It’s far easier to hide in the comfort of your couch and creep someone’s Linkedin profile, Facebook, or Twitter. It’s easy to connect to them via Instant Messenger. But it’s not enough.
Recently, I was graciously invited to the Recruitment Partners’ open house. Of course, I happily accepted. By the time I arrived, there were easily two-hundred people milling about. There were multitudes partaking in hors d’oevres, casually sipping grown-up beverages and chatting away. I ignored the nervous butterflies in the pit of my stomach, turned on the smile and stepped through the entrance. I thought, maybe I could stay a cool 90 minutes, make nice and go home. I ended up spending hours there engaging with interesting people. It took me an entire hour alone to make my goodbye rounds. If there is one thing I could say for the folks at Recruitment Partners, it’s that they keep good company.
I got to thinking about how important it was to have the ability to make a good introduction. It’s crucial to building your network. In fact, your very future, your career… your life even depends on it. Each and every new relationship in your life starts off either with someone introducing you, or you introducing yourself and getting to know the other person. I thought back to the introductions that I witnessed that afternoon. What makes a smashing introduction?
A Proper Introduction Starts with the Letter E
When I sold insurance back in the day, one of the first skills that I was taught was how to negotiate a room full of potential customers (prospects). I was taught how to help a fellow team-mate create a winning impression. In turn, your team-mate does the same thing for you. Of course, it’s no secret how a to make an introduction. Every garden variety introduction starts with this formula:
“Hi, Bob, I want you to meet Jill Summers,” followed by a little bit about Jill Summers. Then you do the same thing with Bob.
Everyone knows to do this. If you want to set yourself apart from the crowd of voices that are in the room, kick it up a notch. Edify the crap out of Jill Summers.
Edification is essentially telling the Bob how fabulous Jill Summers is. It extends past paying Jill a compliment. That’s forgettable. Edification means to literally fill the next few moments with the amazing accomplishments that Jill Summers has done in her life.
“Hey, I want you to meet Jill Summers. She’s done some amazing things with her career, despite her age. She’s a seasoned consultant in IT. She recently made the cover of Entrepreneur magazine for her work in building schools in Ecuador. She’s the most positive person I know, and she’s always willing to help out if she can. I thought you’d like to meet her because you guys have a lot in common.”
The goal of edification is almost to make Jill Summers blush with pride. After all, it’s less about you, and more about them. No. Good introductions are all about them. The point of introducing people to each other is so that they can strike up a new relationship, maybe even a friendship. The implicit benefit is that you build your relationship with them through your edification of them. They’re going to remember you because of those award-winning comments you made about them.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t come naturally. You don’t just rise to the occasion. You literally have to think about what you’re going to say. The good news is that it’s trainable. Anyone can learn to edify like a rock-star. You just have to make an effort. You just have to practice.
“So…What do You Do?”
This, my friends, is hands down the number one trite question that is swapped in any networking event. It should almost be a drinking game. Take a sip every time you hear the question “So, what do you do?” and guaranteed, you won’t be able to walk straight by the end of the night. Honestly, I don’t know why we start off with this question. I would put my money this bet: The last thing people want to do is talk shop. Even for me, it was downright boring to hear about what someone else does for work. Add to that, Recruitment Partners specializes in Accounting and IT. So, guess what everyone does? Remembering people’s names is hard enough. And well, when all of them do the same thing, good luck.
Ask a Question that is Out of the Ordinary
I learned this from Lewis Howes (http://lewishowes.com ), who happens to interview some of the most famous and notable people in the US. Instead of asking ‘What do you do?’ he asks, ‘What are you passionate about?’
Photo Credit: https://lewishowes.com/
It’s amazing how people respond. First, they’re surprised, since they are expecting you to hit them with the old ‘What do you do?’ If you look carefully into their eyes in the next few microseconds, you might see them light up. Possibly it could be the fact that they get to talk about something other than work. Plus, they get to talk about their true passion.
That day, I asked this question to one of the first folks to whom I was introduced. Right away, he told me that he was avid about helping the community. He volunteered in a leadership role in one of the longest standing non-profit organizations. Its mission creates livelihood for people with disabilities. We had an illuminating conversation about how it compares to other organizations out there. Then he proceeded to share with me another passion: vintage cars. He showed me a picture of an immaculate sedan, having been given new life. Despite more than 80% of its parts being original, it still looks and drives like a dream.
One caveat: It’s one thing to ask a question that is out of the ordinary. It’s quite another thing to pry. While both will create lasting impressions, I’m pretty sure you can figure out which we need to avoid.
Aside from that, it’s just way more fun talking about someone’s interests and passions. The implicit benefit is that you’ll instantly remember their name because you actually made an emotional connection.
Your career can be made or broken by your network. Your network can be made or broken by the relationships that you build with people. A solid introduction marks the beginning of a strong relationship or one that’s just ‘meh.’ If you want to stay in business, stay engaged, stay employed forever, then be sure to make smashing introductions.
Catherine (Cat) Lam, CPA-CMA is the founder of ITsolopreneurs.com, a leadership and professional development blog. Energetic, ultra-positive, and having a genuine approach to people are three attributes that are frequently used to describe Cat. She is a seasoned CPA-CMA, systems consultant, fitness instructor, wife, and mother of a spirited pre-schooler. Her passion is to bring together these seemingly independent (yet very related) disciplines and create new ideas and perspectives to super-charge your life, career, business. See what the buzz is all about, and learn more about how you can get success tools to amp up your career and life HERE.