When you meet someone for the first time, you have about 45 seconds to identify an area of mutual interest in order to avoid an awkward end to your conversation. Most people start by looking to their titles and companies: “I’m Tim Klabunde with Gordon, what is your name…” They then expand the circle looking for a connection “John Adams from my office used to work for your company, do you know him?” Great networkers know and use a better approach. Instead of following a linear path to identify connections, they tell stories.
1,000 possible points of connection
Everyone knows that a story paints a picture, and that a picture is worth 1,000 words. What most people have not discovered is that the 1,000 words painted by a story, become just as many possible points of connection for a conversation.
What it looks like
A good story should be about 15 to 25 seconds and it should be current. For me, I often talk about my boy’s recent escapades, current events, or my day at the office. For example, if I tell you a story about my boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain, I have instantly opened dozens of possible points of conversation:
- My/your family
- My/your children
- Plumbing repairs
- The things you did when you were little (So you ended up in the ER after swallowing coins?)
- Stage of life conversations
- Other funny kid stories (Your kids flushed your jewelry down the toilet?)
- Questions about my story
The point is that the more possible points of intersection we can develop the easier it becomes for us to engage in conversation and thus a new relationship.
Keep it simple
To be effective stories should be simple. In my example above I painted an entire picture for you in 8 words: “My boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain.” Yes, I left a lot up to your imagination, but that only opens the door to conversation, which is a foundation for networking.
Next time you are in the car on the way to a meeting take a moment to think up three stories: one about work, one about family, and one about current events. If you need, practice consolidating them into 15 second sound bits. Then, sit back and enjoy hours of great conversation. Just watch out, you might find that you actually enjoy networking!