Know How To Talk About Yourself – A Forgotten Skill For the Social Media Age

by Randy Murray on March 17, 2010

It’s surprising how poor most people are at the ancient art of personal networking.

Frankly, the use of social media tools is making this even worse. I can follow you on Twitter without you following me back, or visa versa. You can be my Facebook friend, get LinkedIn with me, read my blog (hey, you’re doing it now!). But even with the most active exchanges, it all happens at a remote, removed, disconnected distance.

So how is it we can know what seems to be absolutely everything about what a person is doing and yet know them so  little?

I can’t claim to be an expert networker; I’m too much of an introvert and private person to throw myself into it with any regularity. But I can share with you some strategies and techniques that work — and some that don’t. I’ve watched other people at “networking” events and here’s what I’ve seen: a lot of people, desperate for making sales, talking about themselves. That just doesn’t work; while you’re talking, the other person is occupied with thinking how they’re going to get you to buy from them, and neither of you ends up with business or any recollection of who that other person was or what they did. That’s a total waste of time and effort.

But there are some simple steps that you can take that will make you much more successful at really connecting with people.

First, you’ve got to prepare. You need your own “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is a condensed and practiced prospectus about whatever you’re selling or involved in, no longer than it would take to ride up a few floors in an elevator. In this case you’re pitching yourself. The goal isn’t to convey everything and close a sale in sixty seconds. It’s to create interest and for the other person to say, “Wow, that’s interesting. Tell me more.”

That means you need to figure out what it might be about you or your business that could be interesting to other people. Practice it on family and friends. Then try it out on strangers (OK, don’t bother random people on the street. Try your pitch out on people in comfortable situations, like parties, formal networking events, and in places where people might welcome conversation). As you talk, watch them; see if an interest shows in their eyes, or if it’s just polite forbearance. You should try and develop your elevator pitch so that it is so simple and interesting that once a stranger has heard it, they can’t help but turn around and pitch it to others, spreading the word about what an interesting person you are, what an interesting business you’re in.

OK, now you’re ready. But instead of launching into your pitch, start instead by asking this person you’ve just met about themselves. Then listen, really pay attention. You’ll get your chance in a bit, so relax and listen. Help dig out from them what they do; find out what they’re interested in, what drives them. Don’t look for an opening, a way to shape your pitch. You’re looking for connection. In the best possible outcome, you’ll hear something about what they’re passionate about and have a way to help them. Forget about yourself for this few minutes and concentrate on this other person.

And here’s the big secret: don’t try and look for the person who might do you the most good. Talk with anyone and everyone. You’ll never be able to know who might be able to connect you with your ideal client. So your job, when you’re networking, is to meet and connect with as many individuals as possible and learn about them.

Most people are polite enough after talking about themselves for a period of time to ask you do to the same. Here’s the most important thing: relax. You’re not there to make a sale. In fact, tell yourself that this person is not going to be a customer. What you’re looking for, hoping for, is to make a personal connection. This is your chance to talk with an interesting person and to share something about yourself. You’re not there to make a friend; for this moment, you just want to connect. You’re not broadcasting this to the world; for this moment, it’s just you and them. This is something special. Don’t waste it.

Be polite. Open up. Be passionate about what you do. Don’t talk only about your work. Don’t be afraid to talk about your hobbies and interests. And make sure you thank them for listening to you. This is the point where it makes sense to ask for a more formal connection. The exchange of business cards. Linking up through social media.

And here’s the final step: no matter who you talked with, no matter if they can do you any good from a business perspective, follow up. One never knows what can happen through networking. If you have their contact info, follow up with a short, polite, “Nice to have met you” email or personal note. The people who are the best at this develop amazing personal networks. They’re the people who can get things done.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lucinda Sage-Midgorden March 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I like that you have a section on asking your new contact about themselves and really listening to them. I think that is a very important component of networking. If someone thinks you are really interested in them, they’ll remember you. Thanks for all your helpful hints.


2 Randy Murray March 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thanks. I’ve found that people get so wound up about networking that they’re not listening to what the other person is saying. That’s why I think start with listening.

That is, unless you’re both following this advice. They you have to resort to Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock . . .


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