Any seasoned executive or entrepreneur can ascertain the tangible and intangible value of networking. The ability to build and cultivate relationships has been proven to provide a lasting impact on your business, generating new opportunities and securing mentors and sponsors to help propel your career.
Savvy professionals understand how critical it is to engage your audience especially as studies have suggested that first impressions are created within the first seven seconds.
Early in my career, when I first began attending social networking engagements I would always be asked about my profession, “So what is it you do?” and out of impulse I would provide a literal response, “I am a financial writer.” I noticed that often times a conversation never ensued as my acquaintance would start scouting the crowd for their next (more interesting) prospect. Alas, persuading others to think you’re the most captivating person they’ll meet is no easy task. What’s a networker to do?
This led me to wonder how does one position themselves in a more effective and engaging way? “Our brain forms mental maps, and the most effective way to engage someone in your elevator pitch is to help them learn in relational and visual terms,” says Ryan Foland, award-winning personal branding expert. “In your case using the words ‘financial’ and ‘writer’ in the same context sends conflicting messages to someone because it suggests in our mind, something technical and something creative in the same notion and our brains doesn’t fully process this quickly.”
In fact, oftentimes, your conversation ends the moment you give someone your literal job title as an explanation of what you do. “The best way to engage someone is to talk about the problem you are solving and then help them create a visual depiction of what that is.” When Ryan meets people, he uses his own personal example in explaining how he helps companies and individuals perfect their branding, “Think of me as blacksmith of branding,” he says, and that automatically taps into people’s mental maps as it paints a more visual explanation. It worked because immediately my mind went straight to an imagery of someone creating objects and forging metal, using tools and hammer to build a sign.
Ryan then offers me an example of how I can rephrase my profession. “Think of me as the communications ninja who helps CEO’s and entrepreneurs get their stories out to the world…” his suggestion immediately made this person sound fascinating. I wanted to hear more.
Who would have thought that all your hard work could be overshadowed by the quick tag line, and that how you describe your job could result in a conversation kiss of death? Yet the art of words and how we use them not only defines who we are to others, but can also determine how we engage, connect and succeed. You may have the right pedigree, education, wardrobe, and experience, but if you can’t quickly sum up who you are in a job interview, a networking event or even a bar, you may not get the chance to shine or be memorable.