Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rules of Engagement

How many times have people come up to you at a networking event and launched into a monologue about what it is that they do? It's happened all too often to me. Research has shown tht it can take up to 12 visits to undo a negative first impression so if you turn off someone at a networking event, you may never get another chance to impress them. This is especially important for all of you network markerters out there. Because if you happen to meet a perspective client who has had a negative experience with someone else selling the same product or service as you, you'll have a  much harder time engaging that person. So... let's talk about engagement. How do you like to be approached at a networking event? What are things that make you want to continue a relationship with the people you meet?  For me, it's about how well they are able to engage me; make me interested, not just in their business but in them as a person.

One of the first rules of engagement is to ask questions:. BUT the most common question we hear at these events is: What do you do? That question is asked because we think that's what we're there to do. Find out what everyone does. And to a large extent that's true but that question is a trap! It leads to boring and awkward moments  - unless you know how to answer it. The problem is, as soon as we hear that question we feel like we have to answer it right away. But answering it right away paints us right into a little box. Oh.... you're a life coach? A financial advisor... a... blah, blah, blah..And we actually hate putting ourselves into little boxes so the answer is usually given quickly and uninterestingly. Guess what? Just because someone asks you a question, it doesn't mean you HAVE to answer it right away! Think of yourself like a politician! Do they ever give straight answers?

I like to answer that question with a statement of some kind that gets people engaged first, then I'll tell them what I do. For  example I'll say:. "I am passionate about improving the art of face to face communication.... I'm a communication coach and trainer. OR "You know over 90% of communication is not about the words we use?" I work with people to improve their nonverbal behavior skills. I'm a communication skills.....

 Once the initial nicities are out of the way, it's still important to ask questions. Recently, I've been asked some pretty interesting ones, like, " What made you interested in teaching communication skills" "What's you're most memorable client experience?" These are questions that force the person to dig a little deeper for the answer. And the answer will reveal more about the person than the normal facts about their business. Asking questions like that also says a lot about the person asking the question. It immediately makes them seem more interesting and interested. Other questions in that vein: What gets you excited about your work? What do you like most about what you do? Can you think of any others?

It's amazing what engagement will do to a conversation. It gets us out of that rut of reciting our title and job description which usually comes out sounding canned and boring. Let me know ways of engaging that work for you. I'll be posting some other engagement techniques soon!