After many years of attending networking meetings and events, going off to places like CEO SPACE, Internet Retailer, iDate, this-con and that-con and local events, I finally have come up with a networking truism, related to the word Schtick.
This came about because I have recently been personally tasked with finding clients with web development projects that have Social Networking built in, a customized social network. I mean tasked because essentially I am part of a sales process. And quite honestly I was a proven loser when it comes to selling (I have tried in several businesses, but being a techie and a non-sales type, I sold nothing!). But networking to sell is not really selling, its about getting to know people and leading them to where they need to go (whether they know it or not). Very Zen.
Tell And Then Ask
So, the real question is how do you figure out at a networking meeting who to meet and who not to meet, essentially getting people to open up and tell you what they really want, what are they are looking for and why they are looking. That is the key to networking. Because, once you can figure this out, you can find out if your objective is aligned with their quest. Your quest starts by having an in, or something to chat about which is real, emotionally connectable, meaning they listen up and get it and want to know more about it as an Attention Getter to introduce yourself. It has to be personalized and it has to be something real about you, though a poor substitute would be the news or the weather… Once you share, people share themselves. People do not get excited about building social networking websites. They do get excited about a lot of cool and unusual things about ourselves. I call this Attention Getter your Schtick.
1. a show-business routine or piece of business inserted to gain a laugh or draw attention to oneself.
2. one’s special interest, talent, etc.
Ok, let’s clarify how I use my Schtick. It is used to get attention and tell a story about something people are interested in, generally. When I do this, well, the heads turn. If you have people smiling and listening, you are in the zone with your Schtick. Once they are listening, you can always ask them questions and then introduce yourself overall and that is when people not only have no problem being asked if they need insurance (which I would never sell), more importantly they remember you.
Another interesting aspect of Your Schtick is having key words in there, great words, great names, great brands that people can latch onto. I once did a small stint at VictoriaSecret.com. That gets a nod. I have mentioned some of the brands and names I have come up with to people and they, a year later, spit out, how is “X” doing… Like “Oops I’m Single”. Always surprises me. The mundane is never remembered, but the specific, unique thing is.
Here is what I say. “Hi, I am a partner in the largest speed dating company in the US.” Ok, right there, most people now say “Oh, I know what speed dating is” and some people say “Huh”. I explain, “You know 12 men and 12 women meet at a bar for 6 minute dates”, and then I back it up with “It’s in 75 US cities”. Most important to this, is they chuckle. But, it gets them in the conversation. That is a starter. And then if I am loosing them, I mention the brand name I have been trying to build in the dating business “Oops I’m Single”. That gets another laugh. Finally I get to the point. We are looking for companies and entrepreneurs who want to build a custom social network. “Do you or somebody you know want to build and own a highly customized social network and build it for a cost effective amount?”
A year ago, a guy who used to work for me way back when, started to go out and network and look for projects for me. He asked me, “ok, what do I say, how do I network”? I guess working for many years in a big company, we turn off our networking genes and just go to work. All of us have to learn how to re-purpose our minds in order to change careers, find work and generally get things done with others. So, I told this guy, hey you need your own Schtick. He told me he had none… Well, truthfully I am sure there is somebody out there, especially younger people who have not enough life experience with no Schtick at all. But trust me, everybody has some Schtick in them somewhere. I went though this guy’s background and it turns out he attended NYU in the late 1980s, for a special Electronics Media graduate degree program. This is pre-Internet, but what is interesting about this story, is the people he was in class with were saying that there will be electronic worlds in the future and cities will be connected, they just did not know the Internet was right around the corner. In fact some of these people ended up designing and guiding the early Internet. He actually worked for Prodigy right afterwords. So we all have a story in us, just have it ready when you network.
There are limitations to this, like my old buddy Scott, who passed away at a young age of 38 a few years ago, would go to a networking meeting or any meeting and blurt out some crazy thing. He was just crazy and that is not what I am talking about here. Rude, crude, sometimes is interesting if used in context. I know a guy who always does this and he is quite successful, so not my Schtick, but maybe yours. Bottom line, find your Schtick, get the story down and you will notice your networking meetings go a lot better. Find a way to work in what you really do. You share, they share. If they don’t want to, then move them along a bit. “Have you ever thought about building your own web business?”