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The Secret Ingredient You Need to Incorporate in Your Networking Strategy

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Hearing the word “networking” brings up images of elevator speeches, stiff interactions, trying to look busy on your phone, and awkward silences. After the initial introductions and “what do you do’s” you’re often feeling panicked to come up with the next intelligent open-ended question in an attempt to keep the dialogue going.

With all the stress and discomfort that networking events bring, they’re still the best way to put yourself out there and meet like minded colleagues and leads to help you grow your business or land your next job.

The tactic often recommended is to ask questions to the person you’ve just met because we all know that people usually like to talk about themselves. This maneuver can sometimes backfire though because it can lead to either the awkward “I ask, you ask” ping-pong game or the one-way “I ask, you talk” situation.

“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.” –  Armstrong Williams

What if there was a recipe to a successful networking strategy where you’ll leave a great impression on the person you’re speaking to and once you learn it you will never again fear networking events? Well, there is.

We all love stories. From a very young age we have always loved hearing them – whether the stories came from our parents, books, movies, or now through podcasts and YouTube videos. We love telling them and hearing them and never seem to be able to get enough.

Sharing stories improves rapport, it creates ease and trust, and it opens room for more conversation.  They are so powerful that big corporations are focused on telling their stories to touch people’s emotions to persuade and influence them. Using the power of your experience and the stories you’ve lived, helps you connect, inspire, and influence.  

Here’s how I incorporated stories into networking events that helped me to build a six figure tutoring company in three years:
  1. I asked a few of my tutors to ask their students’ parents this simple question, “What do I do for you as a tutor?” to help get an understanding of what parents actually thought of us. This was an eye opening question because parents didn’t just stop at ‘you help my child with math’, they went way deeper giving personal stories about how their tutor had helped their child overcome barriers they were facing in school and in their relationships. One of the tutors even said that it brought tears to her face listening to a parent’s answer.
  2. Then I incorporated these stories into the question I most get asked at networking events: ‘so what do you do?’
  3. Once you start with a story, you open up ways for the conversation to go deeper and become more meaningful. Many times the person you are speaking with will start telling you their own story and the conversation will roll from there.
  4. Usually by this time so much has been said that you no longer have to scramble for the next topic to talk or ask questions about. The conversation will flow naturally.

“We are, as a species, addicted to a story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” – John Gottschall

Even though this method of networking will only give you the opportunity to speak with a few people at an event, it has more value than collecting stacks of business cards that are essentially worthless.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve run into people who have opened with, “Oh, I remember you. You’re the homework coach who helps kids and takes stress away from their parents”.

The impact of taking the time to consider what stories others what to hear and what they want to learn from you is worth the time invested. It allows new people you meet to get to know who you are and what you value.

Try sharing your story. You will be remembered and better still, won’t have to dread networking events.

What are some tips you would give to help when networking with others? Leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Mehrnaz Bassiri is the founder and director of MyGradeBooster Tutoring Services. In 2014 she was the recipient of the Youth Entrepreneur Award sponsored by Futurpreneur Canada. Mehrnaz graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Master of Science. She is passionate about education and its impact on our society.

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